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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Time Magazine's Unclean Hands

In reviewing John Dickerson's Slate piece this morning, one thing becomes clear -- Time Magazine has been doing an awful lot of ass-covering for BushCo. that does not exactly accrue to is journalistic integrity.

In August of last year, the LA Times published a story that indicated Time did not ask Rove for a waiver until the summer of 2005 because:
Time editors were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year.

The story concludes: "The result was that Cooper's testimony was delayed nearly a year, well after Bush's reelection."
Refuse to cooperate in an investigation that might not reflect well on the Administration in an election year? Perish the thought. Much better to obstruct everything until Bush was safely ensconced in a second term and things cooled off, because reporting the news obviously takes a back seat to other considerations.

As Dickerson noted in his Slate piece last December, he was aware that his name had been one that Fitzgerald had searched for in White House emails. But according to his story this morning, he was never the recipient of a leak about Valerie Wilson's job at the CIA -- which probably explains why Fitzgerald has never questioned him. To date, Fitzgerald seems to have stayed true to his original mandate to investigate the outing of a CIA agent. While Dickerson makes his bid for the hottest ticket in DC (a trip to the grand jury) it's not clear that the story adds anything to Fitz's investigation if conspiracy charges are not at the moment being pursued.

If Dickerson's story contradicts anything he's already heard, Fitz can just haul in the two Senior Administration Officials who spoke to him and tried to smear Wilson. Dickerson indicates that both have spoken to Fitzgerald, and the only hint that their stories might not jibe with his is with regard to the dates involved.

In his January 23, 2006 letter (PDF) Fitz notes 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.
Dickerson indicates that he was informed by Matt Cooper on Friday, July 11 that Rove had told him Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. If any of this is news to Fitzgerald it is probably that, although Matt Cooper sharing information with a fellow reporter on a story is hardly a crime. As Jeff indicates over at emptywheel's, there seem to be quite a few time inconsistencies in Dickerson's story that it would be nice to see reconciled.

But it is Time Magazine's role in all of this that becomes extremely alarming. As Dickerson tells it, he was walked up to the story by two SAOs on July 11, 2003 while traveling with Bush on his Africa trip. Dickerson himself has identified Ari Fleischer as one of the people who pushed him toward the Wilson story (so it's funny he doesn't mention it now) and as emptywheel notes he is probably Dickerson's SAO #1. Both Walter Pincus and Howard Fineman have reported that Dan Bartlett also had a hand in this so it's likely he is Dickerson's SAO #2 (hat tip pollyusa).

Robert Novak's hit piece on Wilson appeared on Monday, July 14. So did Time's print edition, which carried the Administration's water about Joe Wilson. As Dickerson notes, the story did not originally report about the coordinated attack by the Administration on Wilson. And Dickerson more than hints that this was over the objections of the writers:
Our editors delayed publication of the Web piece, uncertain there was enough evidence the White House was trying to undermine Wilson's credibility. That was frustrating, since by that time the White House spokesman, Fleischer, was undermining him on the record. Bob Novak's story revealing Plame's name had come out, but those of us working on the story in Washington, which now included Massimo Calabresi, thought we still had a few facts Novak didn't. Our piece finally ran on the Web on July 17, 2003, six days after Cooper had learned about Wilson's wife.
How helpful that the story which turned out to be one of the most hotly debated of the past two and a half years was kept out of the widely circulated print edition.

And then as Media Matters notes, despite the fact that Cooper and Dickerson knew that Rove had been one of the principal Plame outers, as did editor Michael Duffy, Time felt no compunction about printing a story on October 13, 2003 suggesting that Rove had nothing to do with it:
When word spread last week that the Department of Justice (DOJ) was launching a full criminal probe into who had leaked Plame's identity, Democrats immediately raised a public alarm: How could Justice credibly investigate so secretive an Administration, especially when the investigators are led by Attorney General John Ashcroft, whose former paid political consultant Karl Rove was initially accused by Wilson of being the man behind the leak? A TIME review of federal and state election records reveals that Ashcroft paid Rove's Texas firm $746,000 for direct-mail services in two gubernatorial campaigns and one Senate race from 1984 through 1994. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said accusations of Rove's peddling information are "ridiculous." Says McClellan: "There is simply no truth to that suggestion."
As Viveca Novak wrote in her Time Magazine piece covering her questioning byFitzgerald, Rove's involvement in spreading the Plame story was not exactly a huge secret at Time. Under what journalistic principle is a magazine obligated to print bold, outright lies perpetuated by Administration spokesmen that it knows for a fact are untrue?

While Dickerson's article is one of the better ones to date acknowledging his involvement in all of this, his name is on that October 13 article. He does not appear to be particularly happy about Time's willingness to spike aspects of the story critical of BushCo., and one would imagine he wouldn't be too happy about having his name appended to outright propaganda. If he's thinking about a follow-up story, as the only one of the original writers no longer tethered to Time he has the opportunity to write about what the hell was going on behind the scenes in all of this.

It grows ever more apparent that Time Magazine's hands are exceptionally dirty here, joining the New York Times and the Washington Post in the Plame Hall of Shame. It would be nice to see someone step up and address what actually happened.