Frog March, Day 4

Four days, and still no public rebuke of Karl Rove by anyone, not even by the top administrative executive himself, the Shrub. Thanks for restoring dignity to the White House, we really appreciate it. /best used-car salesman voice. Sidney Blumenthal - Rove's war:
Now Miller languishes in jail and Cooper has testified before the grand jury. Is Miller protecting her sources, or does the prosecutor seek to question her as a disseminator of information? Should a journalist protect a source if that person has not provided true information as best they know, but disinformation? What is the obligation of reporters to protect people who have misled them?

In the best-case scenario for Miller, Bill Kovach believes that any pledge she may have made to a source should be invalid. Kovach is the former Washington bureau chief of the New York Times, former curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University and founding director of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. He describes the internal policy set within the Times on sources. “By the 1980s, we decided that we had to set some limits because reporters had been misled and the credibility of the news reports had been damaged by misleading sources. When I was chief of the bureau in Washington, we laid down a rule to the reporters that when they wanted to establish anonymity they had to lay out ground rules that if anything the source said was damaging, false or damaged the credibility of the newspaper we would identify them.”

In the Plame matter, Kovach sees no obligation of the reporters to false sources. “If a man damages your credibility, why not lay the blame where it belongs? If Plame were an operative, she wouldn't have the authority to send someone. Whoever was leaking that information to Novak, Cooper or Judy Miller was doing it with malice aforethought, trying to set up a deceptive circumstance. That would invalidate any promise of confidentiality. You wouldn't protect a source for telling lies or using you to mislead your audience. That changes everything. Any reporter that puts themselves or a news organization in that position is making a big mistake.”

Obviously, the Times is not imposing the rules in its present crisis that Kovach was involved in making. Are the editors unfocused on the underlying facts and falsehoods? Do the editors have a responsibility to determine who is a fair source and who is a deceiver? Has anyone fully debriefed Miller? For now, the Times is frozen in its heroic defense of the First Amendment.

Washington, meanwhile, is an echo chamber of Rove's agents. His lawyer, Robert Luskin, has trashed Cooper: “By any definition, he burned Karl Rove.” RNC chairman Ken Mehlman has appeared on talk shows, given newspaper interviews and circulated a three-page memo of talking points to Republican surrogates. In one brief statement, for example, Mehlman said: “The fact is Karl Rove did not leak classified information. He did not, according to what we learned this past weekend, reveal the name of anybody. He didn't even know the name ... He tried to discourage a reporter from writing a story that was false.”
The sound and fury of Rove's defenders will soon subside. The last word, the only word that matters, will belong to the prosecutor. So far, he has said very, very little. Unlike the unprofessional, inexperienced and weak Ken Starr, he does not leak illegally to the press. But he has commented publicly on his understanding of the case. “This case,” he said, “is not about a whistle-blower. It's about a potential retaliation against a whistle-blower.”


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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on July 14, 2005 11:40 AM.

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