Will someone please explain in simple, easy-to-understand language, why we never see right-wing pundit Bob Novak's name mentioned in the same breath as reporters facing jail time for contempt in the Valerie Plame affair?
Earlier this week, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington upheld an earlier court ruling that New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper should be jailed for contempt for failing to disclose the source of a story neither had any intention of publishing in the first place.
Meanwhile, Bob Novak, the only columnist in the country who actually published Plame's identity in violation of federal law, sits comfortably ensconced on CNN's "The Capital Gang" bloviating as usual.
Miller and Cooper will probably go to jail for "witnessing" a federal crime and refusing to cooperate with a grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA agent's identity. So why is it that only two of the three reporters who allegedly "witnessed" the crime are being threatened?
Novak not only knows the identity of the "senior White House official" who leaked the information to Miller and Cooper, he willingly became a conduit for that information.
What we don't know is whether Novak revealed his source to prosecutors, or whether he is simply enjoying the fruits of years of toadying to the White House.
The malicious White House official's intention appears to have been to discredit Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. Ambassador Wilson attracted the White House's ire by writing an opinion piece for The New York Times contradicting President Bush's claim in his 2003 State of the Union speech that Iraq had sought to acquire uranium from Niger.
Ambassador Wilson had been a part of a high-level delegation sent to Africa to investigate. Instead of finding proof Niger sold uranium to Iraq, Wilson discovered documents so crudely forged that only an idiot would believe they incriminated anyone. Wilson reported his findings to the State Department, but the president repeated the urban legend in the run-up to the Iraq war, anyway.
In going after Wilson, a White House official decided that "outing" the dissident ambassador's wife was acceptable collateral damage -- federal crime or not. Novak agreed and published her name, ending the career of an effective covert spy in the Third World and endangering her contacts.
After Plame's cover was blown by a White House official and their flunky in the Washington press corps, there was immediate disgust and outrage in the intelligence community.
Congressional investigations were threatened and a grand jury convened. In the perverse logic of the nation's capital, subpoenas were sent to reporters who merely sat on the information Novak published. While Miller and Cooper face serious jail time for upholding the principle of source confidentiality, Novak continues perfecting his million-dollar scowl on "Crossfire."
Don't you just hate double standards? It makes you wonder how the self-anointed "Prince of Darkness" can skate so blithely through this firestorm without getting singed.
Ironically, Miller's coverage of the faulty intelligence leading up to the war wasn't nearly as critical of the president's rationales for war as it should have been, yet she's in as much jeopardy as Bush skeptic Cooper.
The persecution and prosecution of reporters is taking place at a time when the White House has perfected the art of manipulating the Fourth Estate. With recent revelations that three prominent columnists were paid "consultants" for administration policies, it's easy to see why the First Amendment isn't taken particularly seriously these days.
And then, with the announcement that "Jeff Gannon," a proud sycophant of the White House press corps, is actually James Guckert, a Republican dirty trickster and homosexual prostitute, one has to wonder whether this administration's contempt for journalists knows any bounds.
As bad as things are now, there's still room for it to get a little worse.
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