Down Memory Lane

Or maybe we should say, down the memory hole. In this morning’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, “readers’ representative” Kate Parry puts the Judith Miller case into an Independence Day context, analogizing reporters who publish anonymous leaks and then refuse to reveal their sources to the Founders:

Tomorrow morning, when I unfold that crinkly document, I’ll be pointing out that you don’t have to look back to 1776 for examples of patriots standing up in defiance of the unjust abuse of power by government officials. I’ll be talking about Judith Miller, 57, a reporter for the New York Times — a fine example of how journalists express patriotism.

In the course of her argument, Parry relates a heavily sanitized version of the Joseph Wilson affair:

Fitzgerald’s investigation was launched after the Bush administration asked retired diplomat Joseph Wilson to determine whether Saddam Hussein tried to purchase uranium in Africa, as Bush maintained in his 2003 State of the Union address. Wilson traveled to Africa, decided the administration claim was doubtful and wrote an op-ed page piece in the New York Times saying “some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”

Reading Parry’s account, one might think that Wilson was asked to go to Niger some time after Bush’s 2003 State of the Union, that he concluded the Niger story was “doubtful,” and that he wrote his famous piece for the New York Times directly upon his return. In fact, of course, Wilson went to Africa in early 2002 and wrote his op-ed for the Times in July 2003. What Parry omits is what happened in between: Wilson reported to the CIA that Niger’s former Prime Minister told him that an Iraqi delegation had, indeed, approached him in 1999 with an overture that the Prime Minister understood to be an attempt to buy uranium. Thus, when President Bush said in January 2003 that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa, Wilson’s report to the CIA was one of many items of intelligence that he, and those who vetted the speech, relied on.
Six months later, Wilson published a bald-faced lie in the Times, misrepresenting what he had reported to the CIA. He was unmasked as a liar by the Senate Intelligence Committee a year ago; we wrote about Wilson’s remarkable chutzpah here and here. But the real facts of the Joseph Wilson affair are, for many in the mainsream media, lost down a memory hole.
Parry continues:

Shortly after that, syndicated columnist Robert Novak was the first to wonder via his column whether Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA agent, had influenced Wilson’s appointment. That triggered the probe into whether a law protecting the identity of undercover agents had been broken — an investigation that also would help the administration figure out who among its ranks was talking with reporters.

Wilson had vociferously denied that his wife had anything to do with the CIA’s selecting him to go to Niger in 2002. It turned out that he was lying once more; the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report concluded that it was, indeed, Valerie Plame who suggested her husband for the mission. But Parry’s suggestion that the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald (who, she notes, was appointed by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, as though this was somehow a mark against him) is advancing the administration’s interest in finding out “who among its ranks was talking to reporters” is silly. This leak–unlike countless others that have been featured on the front page of the Washington Post and the New York TImes over the past five years–was intended to explain how a bozo like Joseph Wilson was chosen to conduct a sensitive investigation, not to damage the Bush administration. The administration would be happy to see the whole teapot tempest surrounding Plame disappear.
Parry does make one sound observation:

Times sure have changed since the 1970s, when Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were viewed as heroes for revealing the Watergate scandal with the help of their anonymous source Deep Throat…

Yes, indeed. And one reason times have changed is that the mainstream media, led by the Times and the Post, have used anonymous leaks by Democratic bureaucrats in the State Department and the CIA to fuel a non-stop guerrilla war against the Bush administration. It shouldn’t be a surprise that in the minds of most Americans, writing story after story based on malicious, anonymous, and frequently unreliable leaks doesn’t put reporters up there in the pantheon with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

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