[IMC-DC] BTL Q&A 7-19-05: Karl Rove's Key Role in CIA Agent's Identity & Press Failure
sharris at snet.net
Mon Jul 18 22:59:53 PDT 2005
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release July 19, 2005
Distributed by Squeaky Wheel Productions
Despite Earlier Denials,
Presidential Adviser Karl Rove
Played Key Role in Illegal
Disclosure of CIA Agent's Identity
Interview with Robert Jensen,
professor of journalism at the University of Texas, Austin
conducted by Scott Harris July 11, 2005
Listen in RealAudio:
(Needs RealOne player or RealPlayer)
The investigation into who in the White House leaked information to the
press about the identity of a covert CIA agent has yielded dramatic new
information about the role of President Bush's deputy chief of staff
Karl Rove. Time magazine's release of emails indicating that Rove had
discussed the CIA career of former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife
Valerie Plame with Time reporter Matt Cooper contradicted White House
statements denying Rove had any role in the affair. According to Rove's
attorney, conversations between Rove and Cooper had taken place --
without identifying Plame by name -- and before the CIA officer's
identity was first made public in an article written by cconservative
columnist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003. It is against the law under
certain circumstances to reveal a CIA covert operative's identity.
The New York Times' Judith Miller has been jailed on contempt of court
charges for her refusal to reveal to federal prosecutor Patrick
Fitzgerald the source of information she received about Valerie Plame --
although Miller never published a story on the topic.
Ambassador Wilson had earned the enmity of the Bush administration after
he published an opinion editorial refuting the Bush administration's
pre-war claim that Iraq had sought uranium for its nuclear program in
the African nation of Niger. Wilson, who believes that the leak of his
wife's identity was intended to punish him and undermine his
credibility, had been sent to Africa by the CIA in 2002 to investigate
the Iraq-nuclear connection. The White House ignored his findings that
the allegations were false. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with
Robert Jensen, professor of journalism at the University of Texas at
Austin, who discusses the Valerie Plame-Karl Rove scandal and the role
of journalists in covering the story.
ROBERT JENSEN: The federal law which criminalizes revealing the name of
an undercover agent, that's what's at the heart of this. The special
prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald is investigating whether that law was
violated when various sources within the Bush administration revealed
the name of Valerie Plame.
Is one of those sources Karl Rove? Well, it's clear now that Rove talked
to Matt Cooper and Rove did acknowledge that Joe Wilson's wife was a
weapons of mass destruction agent within the CIA.
You know there's an old saying of lawyers that if the facts are on your
side, argue the facts. If the law is on your side, argue the law. If
neither are on your side, just throw mud."
Well, the White House tried to fudge the facts for a long time and now
that's out. So now they're arguing the law that, "Well, if Karl Rove
didn't actually say her name out loud, or if he didn't know she was an
undercover agent at the time -- and did say her name, that he didn't
technically commit a violation of the law. Now when that one starts to
fray, I think it's pretty predictable we're going to see a lot of mud
slung in the coming weeks as they try to dodge this.
How it will end up is impossible to know right now, because some of the
facts we need to answer that question are privy only to Fitzgerald and
the grand jury.
So, what we do know for sure is that a conservative columnist, a great
friend of the Bush administration is walking around free off-the-hook,
one journalist from the New York Times in is jail and the other one is
being forced to testify. It tells us a bit about how this administration works.
Of course all administrations duck and cover and stretch the truth, bend
the truth and lie outright, but just seeing a kind of unraveling of the
degree to which the Bush administration played this kind of hard ball
politics -- and whether or not this is the one in which they get tripped
up. Whether it starts to undermine their public support, I dont think
anybody knows right now, but I'm sure Karl Rove, who's usually riding
pretty high, is sweating a bit tonight.
Let me make one comment about the press at this point, because there's a
sort of surge of respect for the press going on right now, partly
because Judith Miller from the New York Times did stand on principle and
refused to reveal her source and did go to jail -- and because the press
is at this point pushing the Bush administration a bit. But I think we
should keep this in some kind of perspective.
Where was the press when Joe Wilson made the revelation about the forged
documents out of Niger and the lie of the Bush administration? Well,
there were reporters here and there. There was a very good story in the
Chicago Tribune, there were a couple of people who picked it up in D.C.
-- but the institution of the press, that is, the collective wisdom of
the American news media at that point did not pursue that story. And at
that point in history, that story mattered, because that was part of the
building block for public support for the war.
Now after the fact, when there's blood in the water and the Bush
administration is limping along, the press seems happy to pile on. And
quite frankly, as someone who was once a journalist who teaches at a
journalism school and who really -- I still retain a lot of affection
for the craft. I really am not impressed with the performance of
American journalism righht now. It's in many ways years after they
should have been engaged in this kind of examination. When we need
journalists the most is when the issues of war, for instance, are before
us, not after the fact, when quite frankly, it's quite easy to beat up
on a somewhat hobbled administration.
BETWEEN THE LINES: I think one of the most instructive things out of
this whole affair with Valerie Plame, Joseph Wilson and Karl Rove is the
fact that this scandal blew up on the eve of a presidential election and
the White House, Karl Rove, President Bush -- with, I think the
complicity of the press corps of the United States -- basically did Mr.
Bush a big favor by putting this whole scandal to sleep for many months
until after the election concluded. This was their very strategy, to
avoid public scrutiny of possible misdeeds by the White House in this
case, until voters had already gone to the polls. And the press by and
large in this country played along.
ROBERT JENSEN: I think you're right. Again, there's a simple term for
that: The White House lies and the press is cowardly. I don't know any
other way to describe it.
The institutional press, the mainstream corporate press in the United
States in the run up to both the Iraq war and in election coverage, I
think, was simply cowardly. It was simply unwilling to do the kind of
investigation that by any definition in a free press you would expect, I
think mostly out of fear of being labeled the "liberal media," of being
accused of being too harsh on Bush -- you know the reasons -- and that's
BETWEEN THE LINES: It seems that New York Times reporter Judith Miller
and Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine approached the whole idea of
protecting sources quite differently. When it comes to this kind of
thing, Robert Jensen, the ethics of journalists protecting their
sources, what was the right thing to do here?
ROBERT JENSEN: A lot of journalists take the position that one never
reveals a confidential source. I think that's too sweeping a claim.
We're balancing the needs for a justice system to have evidence, to get
all the evidence necessary with the first amendment rights of
journalists, and remembering that those first amendment rights in
journalism -- we hope at least -- are meant to serve the public
And of course the argument quite clearly is that if journalists can
routinely be hauled into court to testify about confidential sources,
then it will seriously impede their ability to do their work. And that's
of course a compelling argument.
Robert Jensen is author of "Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to
Claim Our Humanity." Read his articles online at
*"Critics Question Credibility of FBI Investigation into White House
Leak Exposing CIA Operative," Oct. 17, 2003 interview conducted by Scott
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be
heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our
website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured
on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The
Lines for the week ending July 22, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was
compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.
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