There is just the smallest of small problems - on the most incendiary tidbit, The Lost Kos folks have precious little evidence. ["Gannon" Speaks! See UPDATE]. Which means that the Times has fallen overboard.
Let's start with the Times:
Two Democrats in Congress are pressing for investigations into how a Washington reporter who used a pseudonym managed to gain access to the White House and had access to classified documents that named Valerie Plame as a C.I.A. operative.
The Democrats, Representatives John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Louise M. Slaughter from Rochester, wrote yesterday to Patrick Fitzgerald, the independent prosecutor appointed in the Plame case, seeking an investigation into how the reporter, James D. Guckert, who used the name Jeff Gannon, had access to classified documents that revealed the identity of Ms. Plame.
Well. The Plame connection is quite exciting. No "alleged", no "reportedly", no hedging at all - "Gannon" had access to classified documents, in two separate paragraphs. Let's see how Josh Marshall described it:
Of particular interest, to me at least, is just how 'Gannon' managed to have access to classified documents relating to the Plame matter. It's not uncommon for journalists to get hold of classified materials. But given the dynamics of that story and how much the White House was gunning for Wilson, it's awfully odd that he would have had this stuff come into his hands for what could at all be called journalistic reasons.
The emerging theme, as tracked by the hard-working SusanG, was that:
White House-credentialed fake news reporter "Jeff Gannon" from fake news agency "Talon News" was cited by the Washington Post as having the only access to an internal CIA memo that named Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a covert CIA agent. Gannon, in a question posed to Wilson in an October 2003 interview, referred to the memo (to which no other news outlet had access, according to the Post). Gannon subsequently has been subpoenaed by the federal grand jury looking into the Plame outing.
My goodness! I tried to tell them (and even had a pleasant back-and-forth with a Kossite last night) - you have almost no evidence of anything at all! The Washington Post did not say that Jeff Gannon had "exclusive" access to the memos; in fact, the entire memo was described, in detail, in the Wall Street Journal several weeks before Gannon demonstrated any knowledge of it.
Let's cover what they do have - "Jeff Gannon" really was subpoenaed by the Special Counsel investigating the Plame affair [Now I am as bad as the Times - "Gannon" was reported to have been subpoenaed, but he denies it - see UPDATE], along with a number of other reporters who had been involved in the early stages of the breaking story.
But did he have an "exclusive" look at some secret memo, as alleged by SusanG last week? Well, the Kos crowd did pay me a bit of heed, and their press release backs up quite a bit:
According to the Washington Post, Guckert may have had access to a leaked internal CIA memo which revealed the identity of Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife, then an undercover CIA operative. In fact, because of his possible tie to the leak, Guckert was one of a small number to be subpoenaed to testify in the federal grand jury investigation into the matter.
Getting warmer! Gannon "may have had" access to a leaked document; he had a "possible" tie to the leak. Their late-breaking nuance was missed by both the Times, Josh Marshall, and the Kos himself, who tells us that "[Gannon] was receiving classified CIA documents". (Uhh, that would be INR documents, but whatever...). [The letter from Rep. Louise Slaughter must have been written by someone high on Kos Kool-Aid]
As to what really happened? Hey, maybe they are right, but hold on to those hedges and qualifiers a bit longer.
Here is a quick sequence - on Oct 17, the WSJ reported at length on the memo:
An internal government memo addresses some of the mysteries at the center of the White House leak investigation and could help investigators in the search for who disclosed the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency operative, according to two people familiar with the memo.
The memo, prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel, details a meeting in early 2002 where CIA officer Valerie Plame and other intelligence officials gathered to brainstorm about how to verify reports that Iraq had sought uranium yellowcake from Niger.
Ms. Plame, a member of the agency's clandestine service working on Iraqi weapons issues, suggested at the meeting that her husband, Africa expert and former U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson, could be sent to Niger to investigate the reports, according to current and former government officials familiar with the meeting at the CIA's Virginia headquarters. Soon after, midlevel CIA officials decided to send him, say intelligence officials.
Now, drawing on the fine work of the Kos group, we learn that Jeff Gannon interviewed Amb. Joseph Wilson following the Journal story:
At some point during the week leading up to October 28th, Gannon interviews Wilson by phone. The contents of that interview are astonishing.TN [Talon News]: An internal government memo prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel details a meeting in early 2002 where your wife, a member of the agency for clandestine service working on Iraqi weapons issues, suggested that you could be sent to investigate the reports. Do you dispute that?
That is astonishing. Read the Journal story, and the Gannon question, and you can almost hear his copy of the Journal rustling. Do I need to highlight the matching phrases?
So, the Alternative Explanation - Jeff Gannon reads the papers! That might explain why he has not been wacked with a contempt citation. It might also explain why he said this:
"I will tell you that the information did not come from inside the administration," Gannon told Talon News. "For something that is supposed to be classified, it seems that this document is easily accessible."
Media Matters adds this:
"I don't know why I'm on the list of journalists being called before the Grand Jury," Gannon said. "I have been an outspoken critic of the leak probe and an aggressive questioner of the motives behind it. That seems to have drawn the attention of someone with the authority to issue subpoenas."
Well, in other forums Gannon has said other things. And why does he not just admit that he got his news from the Journal? Well, why should he admit it - the Special Counsel is ignoring him (we wonder why...), and pretending to be a Bold Reporter who is Bravely Protecting Sources may have a certain glam appeal. (I would fold up like a cheap suitcase in front of the Grand Jury myself, but I would never admit to that later. Well, unless you asked.)
Or maybe Gannon, the Journal, and others got this memo - that would be consistent with the WaPo account. Two WSJ reporters (Gigot and Hitt) were also subpoenaed - what is their status?
My guess - there is much less here than even the newer, calmer Kos Crew supposes. Maybe Gannon got the memo when some other folks did; I'll bet he reads the news. Time will tell.
MORE: Since we hold our journalists to a high standard of accuracy, is it fair to zip off an e-mail to the Times inquiring as to the evidence backing their lead sentence? What is their source for the news that Gannon "had access to classified documents that named Valerie Plame as a C.I.A. operative."
Perhaps the official position of the Times is that, since he was subpoenaed, he must have done something? Odd; one might expect them to be a bit more protective of journalists.
Or perhaps they have more evidence? One wonders what it might be.
Daniel Okrent will be delighted to ignore you: firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: "Gannon" / Guckert is interviewed by Editor and Publisher; keep those grains of salt handy, and here we go:
NEW YORK In a lengthy, wide-ranging interview with E&P today, former White House reporter Jeff Gannon, whose real name is James D. Guckert, revealed that, contrary to many media reports, he has not been subpoenaed in the Valerie Plame/CIA case.
He also threw into question media accounts suggesting that he had seen a classified CIA document critical to the Plame case, saying he had made references to the “internal memo,” but adding, “I never said I had it or had seen it.” But when asked if he had in fact seen it, he declined to say.
...Guckert said that contrary to many press reports, he was never subpoenaed by the special prosecutor and has never testified before a grand jury in the case. But he said he was interviewed by two FBI agents in his home for about 90 minutes last year.
"I answered their questions truthfully and honestly, but I would prefer not to say more,” he said. “I assume the information was routed back and that is why I was not called to testify."
Although he hinted that he had not seen a classified CIA document after all, he added, "I am not going to speak to that. It goes to something of a nature I do not want to discuss."
*IF* that is true, it is easy enough to imagine what he told the FBI. *IF*. (He might not be credible, right, Kos people?)
LATE UPDATE: Howard Kurtz of the WaPo wraps up the Eason Jordan and "Jeff Gannon" stories, but skips right past the Plame connection. Sort of odd, since the Times led with it, and two Dem congressfolks played it up. Not newsworthy, Howard? Or put another way, how can Kurtz and the Times both be right about what is newsworthy here?
One More: Great lefty perspective from William Rivers Pitt:
And therein lies the rub. If "Gannon" were getting zapped for simply being a conservative reporter who filed boilerplate GOP talking points as news, one could possibly have some sympathy for him even if you find his views repugnant and his hypocrisy intolerable. Yet the real issue at hand here has to do with the name Blitzer failed to bring into the conversation: Valerie Plame.
His personal blog is also quite helpful, and yes, he says it was the Kos Connection that linked Plame to "Gannon". Well, Mr. Pitt will enjoy the Kos press release.
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