Special Counsel Under Attack
Tuesday 05 September 2006
Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald and his investigation of the outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame are under attack by multiple mainstream media organizations acting simultaneously. The reports are - at best - shoddy journalism and at worst a deliberate attempt to bury one of the most powerful political news stories in US history.
Friday, September 1st, began with perhaps one of most curious stories I have ever seen published."End of an Affair," the unsigned editorial published by the Washington Post, was a bizarre fusillade against not only Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson, but Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald as well. The story begged a motive. The day ended with the New York Times blatantly trying to ignite a media stampede through Fitzgerald's office with their "news" piece authored by David Johnston titled "New Questions About Inquiry in CIA Leak." Again, motive conspicuously absent.
All of this followed closely on the heels of what was heralded as a revelation by Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and The Nation's David Corn. Isikoff and Corn -who will shortly release a book on the subject - purportedly led American journalism out of the darkness by reporting that former State Department official Richard Armitage was columnist Robert Novak's primary source for the information on Valerie Plame's CIA status. This apparently provided enough ammunition for both the Times and the Post to declare Fitzgerald's investigation dead on arrival, and ill-conceived to boot.
A startling decision on its face. The information on Armitage was hardly new: it had been reported months ago by several news agencies, includingTruthout and the New York Daily News. Further, Fitzgerald's investigation/prosecution is hardly dead, as both the Times and Post are well aware. So why the deliberate attempt to kill the story?
The threat to the White House posed by Fitzgerald's investigation is abundantly clear, but Fitzgerald threatens another powerful institution in his pursuit of the Plame truth, America's multibillion-dollar commercial news industry. The threat is not abstract or academic, it's quite real. For undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame to have been "outed," someone had to reveal her identity, but someone else had to publish the information. Enter the US Fourth Estate - all rights intact.
Fitzgerald viewed the reporters and publications who published classified details of Plame's role with the CIA as little better than those who supplied the information to them. That became abundantly clear on July 6th, 2005, when Fitzgerald persuaded federal Judge Thomas Hogan to jail New York Times reporter Judith Miller on contempt of court charges for refusing to testify as to the identity of her source for the Plame information. TIME Magazine's Matt Cooper might well have ended up as Miller's cell-mate had he not, reluctantly and with great fanfare, decided to cooperate with the Special Counsel.
In all, Miller spent 85 days in jail before deciding she really wasn't cut out for martyrdom and rolling over on her source, with his permission of course - not Richard Armitage, but Scooter Libby. Cooper likewise got the green light from his source and revealed an even bigger fish - again not Armitage, but White House power broker Karl Rove.
Fitzgerald sent shock waves through the highest levels of the most powerful news organizations in the country with his hardball pursuit of the truth in the Plame case. From his perspective, the outing of Valerie Plame was not only an attack on the career of Plame - and her work group - but a deliberate compromising of their mission and personal safety as well. One justice department official I spoke to called it "treason." Valerie Plame's assignment and that of her group was WMDs. It was the very thing the Bush administration professed to be their highest priority. While Valerie Plame risked her life to combat WMD threats, Bush administration officials made speeches and in the end, many federal law enforcement personnel believe, betrayed her and her group.
Fitzgerald showed no patience with members of the press he viewed as instruments in an attack on the federal law-enforcement family as a whole. He wanted to leave an indelible impression that they too would be held accountable. This does not sit well with the overlords of American journalism. They view this as an attack on the freedom of the press, and the jailing of Judith Miller as an act of intimidation against the entire journalism fraternity.
Whether righteous or misguided in their ire toward Fitzgerald's perceived attacks on them, the US commercial press has abandoned objectivity in their reporting of the Plame investigation. Fitzgerald's investigation is ongoing, there are multiple individuals under examination, and right now US commercial press can't bring themselves to say it.
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