Skip to comments.Novak Skates While Reporters Sweat
Posted on 12/11/2004 6:48:28 PM PST by Pikamax
National editor, The Washingtonian
Novak Skates While Reporters Sweat Robert Novak often has said and done outrageous things and gotten away with them.
According to a profile by Barbara Matusow in the June 2003 Washingtonian, Novak issued an implicitly racist comment about Marion Barry; blamed Israel for the 9/11 attacks; and said on CNNs The Capital Gang that his Thanksgiving dinner had been ruined by the sight of so many homeless people shown on TV that day.
Novak said through a spokesman that he stood by his portrayal in the article.
But should Novak take responsibility for writing a column based on anonymous sources that could send two journalists to jail and have the effect of eroding reporters right to protect sources?
It was Novak who disclosed in a July 14, 2003, column that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. Novak attributed the assertion to two senior administration officials. Its a felony for any government to knowingly disclose the name of any undercover CIA operative. The Justice Department appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the leak.
Two journalists subpoenaed in the matterMatthew Cooper of Time and Judith Miller of the New York Timeshave refused to disclose their anonymous sources. Miller never even wrote about Plame. A federal judge has held them in contempt. This week a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court heard arguments as to why, based on the First Amendment, they should not be jailed.
Novak has refused to comment. Has he been questioned by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald? If so, has he talked? His office tells me he declines to comment on advice of counsel.
In essence, Novak is hiding behind the same excuse used by government officials awaiting indictment and crooked CEOs.
Few in the media have asked why Novak should skate while his brethren suffer.
There is something wrong with Novak continuing with business as usual while hes causing problems for journalists and journalism, says Rem Rieder, editor of American Journalism Review. Hes put a lot of people in a difficult situation. Theres a sense of something wrong for him to stay above the fray, when someone who didnt even write about it faces going to jail.
Lets review the situation. The government dispatched Plames husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Africa to see whether Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium from Niger. Wilson reported that such a transaction was highly unlikely, yet President Bush and top officials repeated the claim. The actual facts are still in dispute.
The Bush administration was furious at Wilson. To discredit him, the two senior administration officials leaked Plames identity to Robert Novak. They used Novak as a blunt instrument.
Leaks come in various forms. The most righteous leak is one that puts the leaker in danger for disclosing some truly egregious government action. Deep Throat performed that role in speaking to Bob Woodward for his and Carl Bernsteins Watergate stories. He deserves protection at any cost. The lowest form of leaker is one who drops a dime on someone for political retribution. Whoever leaked to Novak performed that role.
Novak is complicit in that transaction.
Novak was in a way kind of a transmission belt for the leakers, basically repeating their smears, Matt Cooper says in an interview taped for a CNN Reliable Sources segment to be aired Sunday.
Being on the edgy side of journalism has been fruitful for Novak.
He came to Washington in the late 1950s and covered Congress for the AP and then the Wall Street Journal, according to Matusows profile. He joined with the late Rowland Evans to write a syndicated column in 1963.
Sometimes the pair inflated their scoops; Novak still does, Matusow wrote. Their column, Evans and Novak, was referred to in some circles as Errors and No Facts.
Novak took his brand of brash reporting and confrontational journalism to TV in 1982 on The McLaughlin Group. When Novak left the show, CNN gave him his own venue with The Capital Gang, where he perfected his misanthropic persona, Matusow wrote.
Novak always favored Republicans. He described himself early on as a moderate Rockefeller Republican. But he drifted to the right, especially during the Reagan years. After Evanss death, Novak moved farther right, using his columnsyndicated to more than 300 newspapersto espouse conservative causes and allowing conservative causes to use him.
Raised as a Jew, Novak converted to Catholicism in 1998. The ceremony at St. Patricks Catholic Church was attended by many members of Washingtons media elite, including Al Hunt, Judy Woodruff, Fred Barnes, and Margaret Carlson.
His privileged position would count for nothing if his peers and colleagues held him accountable, writes Amy Sullivan in the December issue of the Washington Monthly.
While Matt Cooper and Judith Miller seek protection through the First Amendment, Novak benefits from the protection of his friends in the media. He is a star of the annual Gridiron Club show, Washingtons fraternity of the media elite. It makes him almost immune from criticismor from pressure to take responsibility for his Plame column.
The federal courts are in motion, and they will decide the fate of Cooper and Miller. By a far different measure of justice, Robert Novak may be guilty of setting in motion a process that endangers two journalists and the practice of journalism for purely political purposes.
I dont know what the truth is, but I had heard that her identity and the fact she was Wilsons wife were not secrets in D.C. Anyone know about this?
Wilson leaked her identity himself - this is likely who Miller and Cooper are protecting.
not sure what is going on with Novak, but he is not in comtempt, so what does that tell us.
Now that is interesting. Wilson leaks his wife's identity to embarrass Bush. But hasn't Novak identified his source as two highly placed WH officials?
Hoist with their own petard. The media tried to use Plame and Wilson to bash Bush with, and now they are getting exactly what they asked for, a criminal investigation. Too bad. They should throw them all in jail.
Grand jury proceedings are secret so we'll have to wait for the case to conclude to find out what really happened.
Novak is the Buchanan of the Rockefeller wing. The Washingtonian doesn't know the truth, yet it asserts these things as plain facts. What kind of journalism is that? The notion of Novak pulling a political hit in support of the war is ludicrous.
September 29, 2003, 10:22 a.m.
Was it really a secret that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA?
It's the top story in the Washington Post this morning as well as in many other media outlets. Who leaked the fact that the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV worked for the CIA?
What also might be worth asking: "Who didn't know?"
I believe I was the first to publicly question the credibility of Mr. Wilson, a retired diplomat sent to Niger to look into reports that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium for his nuclear-weapons program.
On July 6, Mr. Wilson wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he said: "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
On July 11, I wrote a piece for NRO arguing that Mr. Wilson had no basis for that conclusion and that his political leanings and associations (not disclosed by the Times and others journalists interviewing him) cast serious doubt on his objectivity.
On July 14, Robert Novak wrote a column in the Post and other newspapers naming Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.
That wasn't news to me. I had been told that but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhand manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.
I chose not to include it (I wrote a second NRO piece on this issue on July 18) because it didn't seem particularly relevant to the question of whether or not Mr. Wilson should be regarded as a disinterested professional who had done a thorough investigation into Saddam's alleged attempts to purchase uranium in Africa.
What did appear relevant could easily be found in what the CIA would call "open sources." For example, Mr. Wilson had long been a bitter critic of the current administration, writing in such left-wing publications as The Nation that under President Bush, "America has entered one of it periods of historical madness" and had "imperial ambitions."
What's more, he was affiliated with the pro-Saudi Middle East Institute and he had recently been the keynote speaker for the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, a far-Left group that opposed not only the U.S. military intervention in Iraq but also the sanctions and the no-fly zones that protected Iraqi Kurds and Shias from being slaughtered by Saddam.
Mr. Wilson is now saying (on C-SPAN this morning, for example) that he opposed military action in Iraq because he didn't believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and he foresaw the possibility of a difficult occupation. In fact, prior to the U.S. invasion, Mr. Wilson told ABC's Dave Marash that if American troops were sent into Iraq, Saddam might "use a biological weapon in a battle that we might have. For example, if we're taking Baghdad or we're trying to take, in ground-to-ground, hand-to-hand combat."
Equally, important and also overlooked: Mr. Wilson had no apparent background or skill as an investigator. As Mr. Wilson himself acknowledged, his so-called investigation was nothing more than "eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people" at the U.S. embassy in Niger. Based on those conversations, he concluded that "it was highly doubtful that any [sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq] had ever taken place."
That's hardly the same as disproving what British intelligence believed and continues to believe: that Saddam Hussein was actively attempting to purchase uranium from somewhere in Africa. (Whether Saddam succeeded or not isn't the point; were Saddam attempting to make such purchases it would suggest that his nuclear-weapons-development program was active and ongoing.)
For some reason, this background and these questions have been consistently omitted in the Establishment media's reporting on Mr. Wilson and his charges.
There also remains this intriguing question: Was it primarily due to the fact that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the CIA that he received the Niger assignment?
Mr. Wilson has said that his mission came about following a request from Vice President Cheney. But it appears that if Mr. Cheney made the request at all, he made it of the CIA and did not know Mr. Wilson and certainly did not specify that he wanted Mr. Wilson put on the case.
It has to be seen as puzzling that the agency would deal with an inquiry from the White House on a sensitive national-security matter by sending a retired, Bush-bashing diplomat with no investigative experience. Or didn't the CIA bother to look into Mr. Wilson's background?
If that's what passes for tradecraft in Langley, we're in more trouble than any of us have realized.
Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.
She attended White House State Dinners with her husband. I saw picture of the couple going through reception line shaking Clinton's hand. And you know how much security there was in the Clinton White House.
we don't really know. suppose Novak heard that story about the "two WH officials" from Miller or Cooper. and he just repeated it. its a lie, Miller/Cooper heard it from Wilson, but of course they can't tell Novak that - that story doesn't do them any good. so Novak goes into court and fingers Miller/Cooper, says "they told me". He is therefore clear of comtempt, but Miller/Cooper are dragged in, and they can either reveal it was Wilson or commit perjury or stay silent.
Maybe I have been watching too much Court TV.
you are correct, it was supposedly well known on the cocktail party circuit. but the only story that works for the media against Bush - is that "senior WH officials" leaked it. they can't very well say "Wilson tells us at every cocktail party".
Well, she does look mysterious in her scarf, riding in Joes ragtop.
Her name and employer (CIA)--I think she was an analyst, not covert operative--were listed along with photograph with her husband on various websites of left wing NGOs advertising his speaking engagements. Not a secret at all.
Did former diplomat Joseph Wilson try to set up President Bush?
Monday 13 October 2003
The media frenzy over the alleged outing of Valerie Plame, a CIA employee and wife of Joseph Wilson, could be taking a new turn. Circumstantial evidence now suggests that Plame and her hubby, Joseph Wilson, are not only using the incident to embarrass the Bush administration but that they planned to embarrass it some time ago.
What the media is overlooking is that it was Plame who recommended that Joseph Wilson be sent to Niger to determine whether Saddam was trying to buy uranium from that country.
Both Plame and Wilson are partisan Democrats, with Joseph Wilson nursing an intense hatred of President Bush that runs so deep that he wrote in the extreme leftwing Nation:
"The underlying objective of this war is the imposition of a Pax Americana on the region and installation of vassal regimes that will control restive populations ... Nations in the region, having contracted with the United States for their security umbrella, will now listen when Washington tells them to tailor policies and curb anti-Western dissent. Hegemony in the Arab nations of the Gulf has been achieved."
This is pure neo-Marxist claptrap. Making his hatred of the administration clear Joseph Wilson said he would like to be remembered as the "political appointee who did the most damage to the Bush II administration ... " He also told the same crowd of rabid Democrats that he intended to "get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."
It's no secret in the beltway that certain members of the CIA don't like the administration and its aggressive policy toward terrorists and their state backers.
All the dots are now pointing to the distinct possibility that an anti-Bush member of the agency asked Plame to recommend Joseph Wilson for the Niger mission knowing that his anti-war stance and loathing for Bush would result in negative findings for the administration.
So what were Wilson's finding and how did he arrive at them? His idea of an investigation was to spend about eight days swigging tea with Niger officials while discussing the possibility of Saddam buying uranium.
Joseph Wilson reported verbally that he believed it unlikely that Saddam had bought uranium. The manner of his 'investigation' and report was such that the agency felt it could not take it seriously. On the other hand, the British report came from MI6 field agents. I know which one I would trust.
Rather than throw hubby the bone, it's beginning to like Plame through it to the Democrats so that they could use it to bludgeon Bush.
Both Wilsons are Dem donors. Nothing at all wrong with that, except that when Plame donated she gave as her employer the name of a company that was a CIA front. Anyone acquainted with the couple would know who her real employer was. (Novak has stressed that her job was an open secret in the beltway). This means that in order to donate to the Dems she exposed a CIA front operation.
This pair remind me of the Martin's, a couple of Republican-hating Democratic activists, who tapped Newt Gingriche's phone back in January 1997.
The Martins claimed that they were out on a fun drive with a 200 band police scanner and a tape recorder when, by pure chance, they picked up Newt Gingrich's phone conversation, which they then happily taped.
How they managed to do this when scanners are configured so that they cannot intercept phone calls is something they could not explain. What is more, a 1993 statute made the sale and manufacture of scanners capable of intercepting cellular-phone signals illegal.
The Martins gave their illegally obtained to tape to Congressman Jim McDermott the same McDermott who visited Iraq and gave moral support to Saddam who then distributed it, knowing full well that it had been illegally obtained. (This in itself was an illegal act).
We are now going through a replay. A couple of Bush-hating Dems found themselves in a position where they figured they could hurt the administration and then did precisely that. In this they were aided by an apparently loose-tongued informant.
Now the same media that apologized for the Martins, covered for Clinton's refusal to take out bin Laden, who concealed Clinton's national security scandals, who lied to cover for Gray Davis, etc, etc, etc, are now red in the face with phony patriotism and selective outrage.
Well, they didn't fool the people over Arnie and they won't fool them over Bush and Joseph Wilson.
Then why the fuss? If the two reporters did nothing more than "leak" common knowledge, that should end it.
I don't know why the fuss except that this is a totally political game and the truth has been forgotten.
I found one of the references to Wilson's bio, but of course, it has been pulled! http://www.mideasti.org/bio-wilson.html it used to have his wife's maiden name on it, too!
Novak is on CNN because he make Republicans look like elitist heartless racists. He sucks.
if Miller/Cooper now says that Wilson was indeed the source - then the "senior WH officials" story was a lie. Worse then that, it was fabricated to hurt Bush. That could make the Dan Rather story look like beanbag.
indeed. but again, this is the best working theory everyone comes up with when this issue comes up on FR. I mean, why would these reporters go to jail to protect Scooter Libby?
Because if this theory is correct, then they know that the whole thing was a scam from the get-go and they permitted it to happen.
Novak stated his source was "senior administration officials" not "WH officials". His source, therefore, could have been from the CIA, State Department, or any other department.
OK, fine. still, we do not know if he heard the story 2nd hand - from some other reporter as opposed to the "official" himself.
Raised as a Jew, Novak converted to Catholicism in 1998.
I've have a feeling that this is what Jaffe really has against Novak, otherwise why bring it up?
LOL! I'm going to use that one some time.
I do not believe it was Wilson. Novak's words lead me to conclude it was (a) a very low-level (b) political appointee. He said the person was "not a partisan gunslinger". This leads me to lead that it was a Republican, not a civil servant or a holdover. If it were either of those, he could have said so and ended the whole controversy once and for all. I just think it's a very young person who told Novak what everybody knew.