Thursday, October 02, 2003

Controversies over pre-war intelligence swamp White House: Concise summary of Plame affair with links. One of the more interesting issues is why the months-long delay before this issue exploded in the media? As Mother Jones reports: "There's an irony here, and it's at the expense of the Washington press corps. This story has been out there for months but reporters have been less than "proactive" in pursuing it. As best we can tell, some person or persons in the Bush administration passed the name of the agent, Valerie Plame, to six journalists, to punish her husband, the former ambassador Joseph Wilson, for publicly scoffing at its claims that Saddam had bought uranium from Niger. In July, Robert Novak, the conservative comentator and one of those six journalists, wrote in a column that "two senior administration officials" had cold-called him with the dirt on Plame. The story is resurfacing now only because a riled George Tenet, the C.I.A. chief, has asked the department of justice to look into the leak. The White House has some explaining to do, no question. But so does the media."

"More broadly, why did it take a news hook (Tenet's DoJ request) to get this back in the headlines? Why did reporters, having read Novak's column, not follow up on his sourcing. You might think that "two senior administration officials" leaking the name of a C.I.A. agent, a federal crime punishable by up to ten years in prison, is newsworthy in its own right. That they did so in a transparent act of political revenge is nothing short of sensational. And yet, nothing."

Another way of looking at the media's response is that the Bush Administration and its neocon policies has been off the rails according to a wide variety of people in the American establishment itself. And thus the media attack is a method of disciplining this Administration. In a way its similar to Watergate: Nixon could be guilty of the most horrendous crimes worldwide, but that is of little matter. It is only when he starts targetting members of the American elite itself that he is regarded as dangerous and should be brought to book.

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