Thursday, July 21, 2005

Media Duplicity on Karl Rove: Saying One Thing to a Court, and Another on the Air

The Karl Rove hubbub has largely disappeared from media consciousness during the last couple of days — displaced by the Supreme Court nomination and shriveled because of the lack of new revelations.

But before it’s completely forgotten, it would be good to record the extent of media duplicity.

On March 23, 2005, a group of 36 major news organizations (including almost everybody you have ever heard about in the Mainstream Media) filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The purpose was to get two reporters (Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time) “off the hook” with regard to their legal obligation to testify about how the name of Valery Plame (CIA employee) became public.

Both reporters claimed the need to protect confidential sources.

Why did this stellar group of media organizations claim they did not need to testify?

First, they argued that no crime had been committed in the publication of Plame’s name (pp. 5-9). The law requires that the CIA must actually be trying to protect the identity of a covert operative, and the brief argues that the CIA was extremely sloppy and haphazard about doing this.

For example:
She worked at a desk job at CIA headquarters, where she could be seen traveling to and from, and active at, Langley. She had been residing in Washington, not stationed abroad — for a number of years.
The brief also cites a story in the Washington Times that Plame’s identity and covert status had been twice revealed before it was published by Robert Novak. A Moscow spy gave her identity to the Russians in the mid-1990s, and it also leaked from documents sent by the CIA to the Swiss Embassy in Havana.

Indeed, the brief argues that “. . . these facts establish such sloppy tradecraft that, at a minimum, the CIA was indifferent to the compromise of her identity.”

In other words, not only was no crime committed, but Valery Plame was not in any genuine way a covert operative. Thus, even if Rove had leaked her name, it would not have been an big deal. In reality, Robert Novak published her name, and his source was someone other than Rove.

One can argue, of course, that what the Mainstream Media’s lawyers tell a court isn’t binding on the people who work in the newsroom. But that argument is pretty weak.

If the media brief represents the facts correctly, the folks in the newsroom should have known that and given no credence to claims that Rove might be a criminal. If the brief was deceitful, then the reporters should have known that, and were morally culpable for not engaging in some “whistle blowing.”

Instead, all the top news organizations made the arguments in court that served their interests, and broadcast specious nonsense driven by their ideological biases.

And didn’t even notice the contradiction.

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