Networks Focus on "Leakgate," Skate Over Wilson's Liberal Views --10/1/2003
2. Bob Novak Undermines Premises Behind Frenzy Over CIA Naming Leak
3. Early Show's Unfair and Imbalanced Panel of Page & Vanden Heuvel
4. Ted Turner Forecasts the End of Humanity Within 50 Years
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6. "Top Ten Things Going Through Laura Bush's Mind at This Moment"
For the third straight night all the network evening newscasts led with the supposed "leakgate" scandal as CBS's Dan Rather asserted: "The Bush White House under increasing fire for how it's handling charges that it blew the cover of a CIA operative." NBC's Tom Brokaw declared as if he and his colleagues had nothing to do with it: "It is now a Washington firestorm."
But in running through how the Department of Justice announced it had begun an investigation and that President Bush had promised that anyone who broke the law "will be taken care of," the networks skated over two issues. First, how, as the Washington Post outlined on Tuesday, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act requires that a violator intentionally reveal a CIA operatives name and that the accused also knew that "the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States." See: www.washingtonpost.com
(The media have been all over the board in describing the position of Wilson's wife, interchangeably calling her an "operative" and an "analyst," though they are very different positions. On Tuesday's Crossfire, Bob Novak said his calling her an "operative" in his column had no meaning: "I used it indiscriminately. It doesn't have any meaning and I certainly don't know what she did for the CIA." See item #2 below for how in a new column Novak reported it was not a planned leak, the CIA did not ask him to keep the name secret and her job "was not much of a secret.")
Only ABC's Terry Moran on Tuesday night got near the specifics of the law: "One crucial question in that investigation: Did the person who leaked the information about Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, shown here at a 1999 state dinner, know that she worked undercover for the CIA?"
Moran allowed RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, in a soundbite, to tag Wilson as a "pretty partisan Democrat," and Moran noted how "Wilson will make an appearance with the House Democratic Caucus tomorrow."
CBS's John Roberts ran a soundbite of Gillespie revealing that Wilson "is maxed out as a contributor to John Kerry's presidential campaign," but then Roberts countered: "It should also be pointed out, though, that Wilson contributed the maximum to President Bush's primary campaign and worked in the Foreign Service Center under both President Reagan and President Bush."
However, Wilson's current politics are pretty clear. As Richard Leiby reported in Wednesday's Washington Post in a fact not cited by ABC, CBS or NBC: "Wilson makes no secret of being a left-leaning Democrat and said yesterday he intends to endorse Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) for President."
Though Wilson has driven the accusations against Bush political aide Karl Rove as the guilty party, an accusation from which he's had to backtrack, CNN's Aaron Brown was befuddled by the relevance of Wilson's anti-Bush political stance. After John King noted how Wilson would be meeting on Wednesday with House Democrats, Brown wondered on NewsNight: "What does Ambassador Wilson's politics have to do with either the leak or his wife's job?"
(Nightline on Tuesday night was devoted to this subject with Ted Koppel interviewing Joe Wilson.)
A rundown of how ABC, CBS and NBC led their newscasts on Tuesday night, September 30, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, plus a bit of the more interesting parts of the subsequent stories beyond reporting the Justice probe, Bush's comments and Democratic demands for a independent prosecutor:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings: "Good evening, everyone. The Justice Department told the White House last night, and the country learned about it this morning. There is a full-scale criminal investigation under way in Washington into who leaked a CIA officer's name to the press. The officer is married to a former ambassador who criticized the Bush administration's justification for going to war in Iraq. Publicizing the name of a CIA operative has been illegal since 1982. Today the focus, and some pressure, is on the White House. A newspaper columnist cited two unidentified senior administration officials as the source of the leak. The President said today that he thinks the investigation is a good thing, and he said so publicly. Here's ABC's Terry Moran."
Late in his story, Moran noted: "One crucial question in that investigation: Did the person who leaked the information about Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, shown here at a 1999 state dinner, know that she worked undercover for the CIA?"
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather's opening teaser: "Tonight: Investigating the leak. The Bush White House under increasing fire for how it's handling charges that it blew the cover of a CIA operative. As jobs disappear, millions more Americans lose their health insurance."
Rather led the program: "Good evening. President Bush and his aides stepped up their defense and efforts at damage control today in the case of who blew the cover of an undercover CIA operative. The Justice Department now says it has launched what it calls a full criminal investigation into who leaked the name and why. CBS's John Roberts reports tonight how the President responded to allegations that the leak did come from a White House insider and how the President tried to deflect calls for an independent investigation."
Roberts raised a discredited charge against Rove which Wilson has already taken back: "It was former Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife, seen here at a 1999 state dinner, who was the focus of the leak. Retribution, Wilson says, for his proving wrong President Bush's State of the Union claim about Iraq and uranium. So convinced was Wilson that White House political director Karl Rove was behind it, that he said this in public:"
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw teased: "The leak: Who revealed the name of a CIA operative? The FBI opens a criminal investigation. The President wants to know if the leak came from the White House."
Brokaw led his broadcast: "Good evening. Shortly before 9 this morning, White House staff members read on their computer screens: 'Please read. Important message.' It was their official notification that the FBI now is conducting a criminal investigation into who leaked the name of a CIA undercover operative to a journalist. The operative is the wife of Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who, at the request of the CIA, investigated claims that Saddam Hussein tried to buy enriched uranium in Niger, claims used by President Bush in the runup to the war with Iraq. Wilson determined that the uranium story was not true, and then his wife's identity was published by a prominent journalist, citing administration sources. It is now a Washington firestorm. We begin with NBC's David Gregory who's traveling with the President."
-- CNN's NewsNight. White House reporter John King observed: "The White House, though, is borrowing a page from Bill Clinton's playbook. This White House is saying it is Ambassador Wilson, not the Bush White House that is engaged in partisan politics and many here at the White House think Ambassador Wilson is playing into their hands. He has given a number of speeches at Democratic events. Tomorrow he is giving, going to Capitol Hill to meet with Democrats and to come out for a news conference with the Democrats. The White House thinks that helps them say this is all politics and when the American people think something is all politics they tend not to pay close attention."
We wish someone could.
What scandal? Columnist Bob Novak's July 14 column more than two months later suddenly set off a media frenzy about him citing a "senior administration official" telling him the name of Joe Wilson's wife and how she worked for the CIA, which came in the context of suggesting that she, and not Vice President Cheney as Wilson had charged, had sent him to Niger. In a new column today, Novak asserts there is no scandal: "First, I did not receive a planned leak. Second, the CIA never warned me that the disclosure of Wilson's wife working at the agency would endanger her or anybody else. Third, it was not much of a secret."
Novak insisted, in countering a Washington Post story: "The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue." And he revealed that Wilson has hardly kept his wife's maiden name secret since it appears "in Wilson's 'Who's Who in America' entry."
An excerpt of Novak's October 1 column:
....The leak now under Justice Department investigation is described by former Ambassador Wilson and critics of President Bush's Iraq policy as a reprehensible effort to silence them....
The current Justice investigation stems from a routine, mandated probe of all CIA leaks, but follows weeks of agitation. Wilson, after telling me in July that he would say nothing about his wife, has made investigation of the leak his life's work -- aided by the relentless Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. These efforts cannot be separated from the massive political assault on President Bush....
During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger. When I called another official for confirmation, he said: "Oh, you know about it." The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue.
At the CIA, the official designated to talk to me denied that Wilson's wife had inspired his selection but said she was delegated to request his help. He asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause "difficulties" if she travels abroad. He never suggested to me that Wilson's wife or anybody else would be endangered. If he had, I would not have used her name. I used it in the sixth paragraph of my column because it looked like the missing explanation of an otherwise incredible choice by the CIA for its mission.
How big a secret was it? It was well known around Washington that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA....Her name, Valerie Plame, was no secret either, appearing in Wilson's "Who's Who in America" entry.
A big question is her duties at Langley. I regret that I referred to her in my column as an "operative," a word I have lavished on hack politicians for more than 40 years. While the CIA refuses to publicly define her status, the official contact says she is "covered" -- working under the guise of another agency. However, an unofficial source at the Agency says she has been an analyst, not in covert operations....
END of Excerpt
For Novak's column in full: www.townhall.com
On Tuesday morning ABC's Robin Roberts offered the self-fulfilling claim that "the furor over the disclosure of a secret CIA agent's identity is not abating," CBS's Early Show provided an unfair and imbalanced panel of liberal columnist Clarence Page and Katrina Vanden Heuvel, the Editor of the far-left The Nation magazine who charged this is "a thuggish White House" and that "this is Watergate, Iran/Contra together," and, in a refreshing example of a devil's advocate approach to a liberal, NBC's Matt Lauer consistently challenged the premises cited by Democratic Senator Charles Schumer for demanding a special prosecutor.
Lauer, for instance, asked: "The independent counsel statute, which has expired, basically that calls for the attorney general to appoint a special counsel after receiving all the facts in a case and clearly at the moment John Ashcroft doesn't have all the facts, so why jump the gun?"
In contrast, CBS Early Show anchor Julie Chen endorsed Schumer's view as "a good point." Bill Plante concluded a story by noting how "Democrats are already calling for a special counsel saying the Bush Justice Department shouldn't be investigating the Bush White House, Julie." Chen chimed in: "That is a good point. Bill Plante at the White House. Thanks, Bill."
Now, more detail about the above incidents on the September 30 morning shows:
# ABC's Good Morning America. News reader Robin Roberts, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, set up a story on "leakgate" with a bit of self-fulfilling self-justification: "The furor over the disclosure of a secret CIA agent's identity is not abating. Democrats are calling for an independent investigation, but the White House is standing firm."
# CBS's Early Show featured two liberals as the guest experts on the supposed scandal, the MRC's Brian Boyd noticed, liberal columnist Clarence Page and Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Editor of the far-left The Nation magazine. Harry Smith set up the segment:
-- Smith: "You don't trust the John Ashcroft Justice Department to investigate this?"
-- Smith: "Clarence, let me ask you this though. Doesn't this sound uncharacteristic of this White House? This is a very disciplined White House, they're practically leak proof. Doesn't this sound, this doesn't sound like the way they operate."
-- Smith: "Katrina, what were you going to say."
-- "And if it's tracked back to Karl Rove, what happens?"
# NBC's Today. Matt Lauer announced at the top of the show: "Good morning, chargers, countercharges and calls for a special counsel. There's a firestorm brewing in Washington. Allegations the White House revealed the name of a CIA operative."
Lauer soon introduced Senator Charles Schumer: "On Close Up this morning the charges being leveled against the White House. As we reported Ambassador Joseph Wilson says the Bush administration leaked the name of his wife, a CIA operative, after he helped discredit one of the President's claims against Iraq. New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer is asking the Justice Department to have a special counsel investigate the charges. Senator Schumer, good morning to you."
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down Lauer's questions to Schumer, virtually all of which challenged him:
-- "We spoke to the White House yesterday, they declined to send a guest here today saying the matter is now in the hands of the Justice Department. Several Republican Congressmen declined to appear saying there's an ongoing investigation so why are you coming out talking about what is an ongoing investigation?"
-- "I understand but why not let the Justice Department carry out a thorough investigation before commenting further on it?"
-- "I'll talk about the 'high-levels,' in a second but even if you follow the statute, the independent counsel statute, which has expired, basically that calls for the attorney general to appoint a special counsel after receiving all the facts in a case and clearly at the moment John Ashcroft doesn't have all the facts, so why jump the gun?"
-- "White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the following, he said, 'There's been nothing, absolutely nothing, brought to our attention to suggest any White House involvement. That includes the Vice President's Office as well.' He went on to say, 'If anyone in this administration was involved in it they would no longer be in this administration.' Fairly tough words from the White House. You're not satisfied?"
-- "However even Ambassador Wilson seems to have backtracked a little bit. Initially he seemed to point the finger at Karl Rove, the senior adviser to the President, now he's saying he has no specific information that Karl Rove either leaked the information or was involved in the leak."
-- "How do you get to the bottom of it when you're talking about sources for reporters. And there are shield laws to protect those sources for reporters. How do you get a reporter to come forward and say, 'Here's who made the phone call to me?'"
-- "How do you answer charges that this is pure politics? That as we head into a re-election campaign for the President the Democrats want nothing more than to have an open investigation from an independent counsel hanging over his head, much the same way that the Republicans liked to talk about some of the independent counsel investigations that were hanging over President Clinton's head several years ago."
Wednesday morning Today brought aboard Howard Dean and Senator Arlen Specter to discuss the same subject.
Though he admitted how "I said 20 years ago newspapers wouldn't be around in 10 years, and I was wrong," CNN founder Ted Turner on Saturday night plowed forward with a more dire prediction: "I'd say the chances are about 50-50 that humanity will be extinct or nearly extinct within 50 years." Speaking Saturday night at an Associated Press Managing Editors international coverage seminar, Turner also denounced the Bush Iraq policy as a "failure."
An excerpt from an unbylined AP story published in the September 29 Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Even while his three foundations continue to spend millions of dollars on environmental and health initiatives, Ted Turner told a newspaper group Sunday night he does not have an optimistic outlook for the future of the world.
"If I had to predict, the way things are going, I'd say the chances are about 50-50 that humanity will be extinct or nearly extinct within 50 years," Turner said. "Weapons of mass destruction, disease, I mean this global warming is scaring the living daylights out of me."
Returning to the city that was home to the CNN and Turner Broadcasting companies he founded, Turner was the featured speaker at the Associated Press Managing Editors international coverage seminar. Turner spoke to editors from 10 regional states and admitted he may not be very good at making predictions.
"I said 20 years ago newspapers wouldn't be around in 10 years, and I was wrong," Turner said.
Turner, who now lives in Lamont, Fla., stepped down as vice chairman of AOL Time Warner and sold 50 million shares of the company's stock earlier this year....
"The most dangerous thing in the world right now is the fact the Russian and American nuclear missiles, 10 years after the Cold War is over, are still a hair-trigger away with less than 10 minutes response time from two presidents who thankfully are together today," Turner said.
The ever-candid Turner also gave a negative review to the U.S. efforts in Iraq.
"We spent $87 billion to blow Iraq up and then we spent another $87 billion to put it back together, and all to get one man and we still haven't got him," Turner said. "Talk about a failure."...
END of Excerpt
For the dispatch in its entirety: www.ajc.com
At least in 50 years Turner won't be around to make any new inaccurate predictions.
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From the September 30 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things Going Through Laura Bush's Mind at This Moment" -- when getting kissed on the hand by French President Jacques Chirac. Late Show Web site: www.cbs.com To see the most widely used AP photo from Paris of Chirac kissing Laura Bush's hand: story.news.yahoo.com
Now the Top Ten list:
10. "This guy's as drunk as my husband"
9. "Enjoying the view there, buddy?"
8. "What the hell are we paying those Secret Service guys for?"
7. "Maybe I'll leak him the names of a few CIA agents"
6. "Good thing George never reads the newspaper"
5. "He just called me 'Mrs. Schwarzenegger'"
4. "Dang, mama's in love!"
3. "Hey -- where's my wedding ring?"
2. "This is more embarrassing than when my husband dropped the dog"
1. "He wants to show me his Eiffel Tower"
-- Brent Baker