Fresh from the 43rd St. Comedy Club comes this correction:
A front-page article yesterday about a new disclosure in the C.I.A. leak investigation referred incorrectly to an assertion made by the special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald about I. Lewis Libby Jr., whom he indicted in the case involving the naming of Valerie Wilson, a C.I.A. officer. Mr. Fitzgerald said that Mr. Libby was the "first known" government official - not the first - to discuss Ms. Wilson with a journalist. Go to Article
Go to article - what oddly helpful advice. Here is what the Times thinks they are correcting:
On Wednesday, Mr. Libby's lawyer, Theodore Wells, pronounced Mr. Woodward's revelation a "bombshell" that contradicted Mr. Fitzgerald's assertion that Mr. Libby was the first government official to discuss Ms. Wilson's C.I.A. connection with a journalist, Judith Miller, a former reporter for The New York Times, on June 23, 2003.
Well, I made a similar mistake, but had a helpful commenter for an editor. Let's go to the transcript of Mr. Fitzgerald's press conference. Early on, he makes the comment that inspired the Times correction:
In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.
Nicely spotted by the Times! But keep reading:
At the end of the day what appears is that Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true.
It was false. He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterwards, under oath and repeatedly.
No correction called for, gents. Hey, you were right!
And while we are all feeling friendly, help me out with this - any luck on the Bold Assertion about Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus? Todd Purdum, David Johnston and Douglas Jehl told us this:
In his formal statement in The Post, Mr. Woodward said he had mentioned to Mr. Pincus in June 2003 that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. But Mr. Pincus, who has written that he first heard about Ms. Wilson from a senior administration official in July, said he did not recall that.
Emphasis added, I stand by my earlier comment that Mr. Pincus wrote no such thing, and I challenge the Times reporters (who evidently have trouble reading a transcript) to show us the text. (And if it is a private email, they should have said so; if a TV appearance, why say "written" and send us searching in the wrong place?)
My position - since Mr. Pincus was all over the Niger trip story in June, he may well have received a leak from the same source that leaked to Woodward. That would be a bit of a bombshell, wouldn't it, especially after the Times reported it to be impossible.
And why do we wonder? I have long been puzzled by Mr. Pincus' explanation for why he ignored the July 12 leak, which was, he didn't believe it. What's not to believe, unless Mr. Pincus had checked it out.
Anyway, here is what Mr. Pincus wrote in the Nieman Watchdog describing his leak experience:
On July 12, 2003, an administration official, who was talking to me confidentially about a matter involving alleged Iraqi nuclear activities, veered off the precise matter we were discussing and told me that the White House had not paid attention to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s CIA-sponsored February 2002 trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction.
I didn’t write about that information at that time because I did not believe it true that she had arranged his
Niger trip. But I did disclose it in an October 12, 2003 story in The Washington Post.
Nothing about this being his first such leak. And how about in the Oct 2003 WaPo? He wrote this:
On July 12, two days before Novak's column, a Post reporter was told by an administration official that the White House had not paid attention to the former ambassador's CIA-sponsored trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction. Plame's name was never mentioned and the purpose of the disclosure did not appear to be to generate an article, but rather to undermine Wilson's report.
No, nothing about "first leak" there. If the Times wants to argue that he implied it, fine - don't write that Mr. Pincus "has written that he first heard about Ms. Wilson from a senior administration official in July" without evidence.
Let's at least get the correct corrections. It seems odd that the Times corrected accurate reporting in order to burnish Fitzgerald's image. Go, go figure.
At this point, the Times Public Editor Byron Calame is beaten down and discouraged by this story, but give him a try: email@example.com