Who is a reporter in this puzzling age of bloggers, foundation presidents, and on-line jounralists? A recently disclosed letter from Special Counsel Fitzgerald has us wondering.
Let's start with Cliff May, whose situation is described in detail by the Anon Lib. Briefly, Cliff May wrote in Sept 2003 that he was aware that Joe Wilson's wife was at the CIA prior to the publication of the Novak column. His lead was this:
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?"
David Corn later announced that Cliff May had been contacted by the FBI, but added that Mr. May had been asked to lower the Cone of Silence over his chat with the investigators.
And the latest development - in a recently disclosed letter (Exhibit C), Special Counsel Fitzgerald said that "we were not aware of any reporters who knew prior to July 14, 2003, that Valerie Plame, Ambass. Wilson's wife, worked at the CIA, other than: Bob Woodward, Judith Miller, Bob Novak, Walter Pincus and Matthew Cooper." (In a footnote, they add the clarification that they mean either "Valerie Plame" or 'Wilson's wife".)
Well, Cliff May is missing from that list. So, is he (in Fitzgerald's mind) not a reporter, did he tell the FBI something different from what he told his NRO readers, or did the FBI take the questioning in some different direction?
As to the "not a reporter" possibility, who knows what Fitzgerald makes of a former NY Times reporter who heads a foundation and contributes to the National Review? But let me say this, in a brief stint as Cliff May Apologist - it may be that FBI investigators and/or Special Counsel Fitzgerald refused to classify him as a reporter in order to prevent Mr. May from being shielded by the DoJ guidelines for journalists [DO NOT attempt this sort of spin at home].
On the other hand, let's look at Fitzgerald's list - Bob Woodward, Judith Miller, Walter Pincus, and Matthew Cooper have all described their experience with the investigation. Bob Novak is famously silent, for reasons that are mysterious.
So the notion that Mr. May can't clarify his situation a bit seems odd. I for one would love some insight into just how comprehensive the FBI questioning was, mainly so that I can buttress the case against Andrea Mitchell, who either cooperated with the investigation or didn't.
While we eagerly await word from Mr. May, let's see if John Dickerson, formerly a colleague of Matt Cooper's at TIME and now at Slate (and is emphatically a reporter) would like to take our suggestion for a column idea - tell us how your chat with the FBI went, or give us a real denial of same.
Regular readers should brace themselves for a shock - Raw Story has a good article telling us about Mr. Dickerson. Here we go:
In the letter, Fitzgerald notes that a third Time Magazine reporter – who now serves as Slate’s chief political correspondent – had conversations with Administration officials about a trip conducted by Plame’s husband to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from Niger.
"We also advise you that we understand that reporter John Dickerson of Time magazine discussed the trip by Mr. Wilson with government officials at some time on July 11 or after, subsequent to Mr. Cooper learning about Mr. Wilson’s wife," Fitzgerald writes. "Any conversations involving Mr. Dickerson likely took place in Africa and occurred after July 11."
Raw Story links to a Dickerson piece in which he denies receiving a leak about Ms. Plame, but says this:
More astonishingly, we learn from the Fitzgerald indictment that Ari Fleischer knew about Plame and didn't tell anyone at all. He walked reporters, including me, up to the fact, suggesting they look into who sent Wilson, but never used her name or talked about her position.
The dates don't match (Fitzgerald is talking about conversations after July 11), but here is Condi Rice, with Ari Flesicher, from July 11, 2003:
DR. RICE: The IAEA reported it I believe in March. But I will tell you that, for instance, on Ambassador Wilson's going out to Niger, I learned of that when I was sitting on whatever TV show it was, because that mission was not known to anybody in the White House. And you should ask the Agency at what level it was known in the Agency.
That might be construed as walking the reporters up to the Wilson question.
So, was Mr. Dickerson, about whom Mr. Fitzgerald appears to be so knowledgeable, contacted by the investigation? He "denies" it to Raw Story:
“I didn't know I was mentioned in the court filings until I saw it on the web,” he said. “I've never been contacted by anyone in Fitzgerald's office.”
"Fitzgerald's office" was established when he took over the case on Dec 30, 2003. However, FBI investigators had been interviewing people since October 2003.
C'mon, Raw Story, turn up the heat a bit and get a real denial. Or a real story from a real reporter.
As noted with Cliff May, I think there is a real public interest in learning just how comprehensive the FBI interviews were, and in hearing about the direction they took.