Wednesday, February 16, 2005

BOYCOTT NOVAK. Now that New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine's Matthew Cooper have been dragged another step closer to jail, it's time for the media community to rise up as one and call out the Prince of Darkness, syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

It is Novak, as much as anyone, who knows the answer to the question that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is asking: Which "senior administration officials" revealed that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA operative? Novak was the first to reveal Plame's identity. Yet we still have no idea what, if anything, has happened to him.

Was he subpoenaed? Did he cooperate? (If so, why harass Cooper and Miller?) Has Novak not been subpoenaed? If not, why not? Might he be the subject of a separate criminal investigation? (On one of the very few occasions that he's addressed the subject, he's said that he isn't.) Or is he getting off easy because he's a Republican hatchet man?

I don't know what ought to be done. In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled in Branzburg v. Hayes that journalists do not have a legal right to protect confidential sources when called by a grand jury to testify. A majority of the justices seemed to think there ought to be some sort of balancing test. But the bottom line was that if a journalist's source was crucial to a criminal investigation, and prosecutors couldn't get that information anywhere else, then the journalist would have to give up her source or go to jail.

As a public gesture of solidarity with Cooper and Miller, newspapers ought to boycott Novak's column until he explains what his role has been. CNN ought to keep him off the air. I'm not saying that Novak should give up his sources. I'm saying that we deserve a credible explanation from him as to what his interactions with the special prosecutor have been, and why two of his colleagues face jail (Miller never even wrote about the Plame matter) while he goes about his glowering, unmerry way.

There are a zillion links out there today. The New York Times covers the story here; the Washington Post here. I wrote about the government's increasing aggressiveness in going after reporters' confidential sources here.

ALTERMAN V. YOUNG. Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young responds to Eric Alterman at What's missing from this is any acknowledgment that she went 95 percent of the way toward calling Alterman a "self-hating" Jew. Column-writing is rough, and it's supposed to be, but there are some expressions that are simply out of bounds - and that was one of them. Absent that, I wouldn't be all that interested in this spat - nor, I suspect, would Alterman himself.

ROLE REFUSAL. Joe Hagan reports in the New York Observer that former 60 Minutes Wednesday executive producer Josh Howard refuses to take the blame for whatever he contributed to the Rathergate mess over those phony National Guard documents. (I say "former," but that's unclear, given that Howard has refused to resign.) Lawyers and threats of lawsuits are said to be in the air.

As Hagan observes, it's "hard to see how Mr. Howard would escape any culpability. Few dispute that Mr. Howard could have stopped the report from airing had he executed his full powers." Still, the prospect of Howard's going after higher-ups - including CBS president Leslie Moonves - is bound to keep this story churning. And ensure that CBS News remains in complete turmoil for some time to come.


Anonymous said...


1. Why does Robert Novak owe anybody anything on this? If he cooperated with the grand jury, he made a different decision (the proper legal decision) than Cooper and Miller. Why does his decision have to be made public? You are assuming that he broke the law and got away with it. The grand jury, presumably, will hear who leaked the identity of Plame, and go from there. It can also indict Novak.
2. Why do you assume there is one leaker? Novak may have it from somebody different than Cooper or Miller.
3. This whole thing is a joke. The media needs to realize that its privilege is not now - and never was - as broad as it believes. The first amendment has several legal limitations. Journalists are not free to break the law with impunity. If Cooper and Miller really believe in their stance, they should accept their jail time when it inevitably comes. One can imagine far worse than the leaked identity of Plame in the future. Will the first amendment protect the source (and journalist) who leaks significant secret security-related plans (that places Americans in direct jeopardy)?
Clearly the problem is far more complex than you and your privileged journalism friends assume...

Anonymous said...

Dan, It is inconceivable to me that Robert Novak has not answered his critics or taken responsibility. I agree with you. Boycott anything that has to do with 'Robert Novak.

Anonymous said...

I sympathize with Mr. Alterman, but the Boston Globe will admit a mistake the day George Bush is caught in bed with Condi Rice. It's just not going to happen.

Anonymous said...

Anthonyg here covering for cofeebreaking DK.

Yes, Bob Novak and the Plame investigation get's curiouser and curioser, especially when you consider that among the "reporters" who had inside info on Plame's identity was prostitute Jim Guckert who also was working undercover --pretending to be White House reporter "Jeff Gannon" of the fake Talon News.

Joe Wilson recently revealed to blogger dKos that Guckert interviewed the Ambassador and told him he'd seen a CIA memo identifying his wife.

And just yesterday, blogger Phoenix Woman dicovered a posting by "Jeff Gannon" at the right-wing website FreeRepublic in which he claims he walls called to testify in the Plame investigation.

You may have heard me mention Guckert before, but probably haven't heard much from all those brave, Wonkette-inspired MSM professionals who are hiding under their desks.

So where is the Guckert scandal at now? Well, well well...

Americablog --and other REVOLUTIONARY BLOGGERS who know what journalistsic research really is-- found CSPAN footage showing Jim Guckert plying his wares in the WH press pool before he ever joined Talon News and before the date he got his first White House press pass.Well, well, well...

And now, finally, because of the persistence of these Revolutionary Bloggers, MSM personalities are beginning to weigh in:

MAUREEN DOWD reveals today that even she couldn't get a White house press pass that Guckert got.

Frank Rich weighs in HERE.

The Christian Science Monitor takes EXACTLY THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE.SID BLUMENTHAL. weighs in, too.

And if you didn't catch the Daily Show last night check out their Guckert special...

~Anthony G.
Media Log Pain in the Ass

Anonymous said...

Novak clearly DID break the law. Per
the US Code, Title 50, Section 421 (abbreviated here for length):

Section 421. Protection of identities of certain United States undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants, and sources

(c) Disclosure of information by persons in course of pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents
Whoever, in the course of a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States, discloses any information that identifies an individual as a covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such individual and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such
individual's classified intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

Further, as Slate notes, "Novak could be the target of another, related indictment. He might have lied to investigators or helped to cover up the crime. In that case, he would not have been granted immunity and could have taken the Fifth."

Mike B.