Daily Archives: September 10, 2005

What a fine mess Pravda has gotten itself into:

“A staff attorney with the Texas secretary of state said yesterday that she was fired this week for violating press protocols when she spoke to a Washington Post reporter who was working on a story about presidential adviser Karl Rove.”

Land sakes! Do we have a “whistleblower”?

Elizabeth Reyes, 30, of Austin said she was fired Tuesday after she was quoted in a Post story that ran Sept. 3 about tax deductions on Rove’s homes in the District and in Texas.

Scott Haywood, a spokesman for Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, confirmed yesterday that Reyes is no longer employed, but he declined to provide details, saying it was a personnel matter. Haywood had said late last Saturday that Reyes “was not authorized to speak on behalf of the agency.”

And thus we have what would presume to be the classic example of why”sources” do not wish to be named — the vengeance of the neo-fascists.

But what precisely happened here? To begin with, what was the hoo-hah all about?

“The Post’s story reported that Rove inadvertently received a District homestead tax deduction on his Palisades home, even though he had not been eligible for the benefit for more than three years. Rove was eligible for the deduction when he bought the home in 2001, the story said, but a change in the tax law in 2002 made the deduction available only to District property owners who do not vote elsewhere. Rove is registered to vote in Texas.

The District’s Office of Tax and Revenue accepted blame for the mistake in a letter to Rove, expressing regret that it had failed to rescind the deduction. Rove agreed to reimburse the city an estimated $3,400 in back taxes, and a White House spokeswoman said it had been an innocent misunderstanding.

Rove is registered to vote in Kerr County, Tex., the story reported, and he and his wife own two small rental cottages there that Rove claims as his residence. But two local residents said they had never seen Rove there.”

In other words, “How innocent the misunderstanding” ?

“When Post reporter Lori Montgomery telephoned the press office of the Texas secretary of state, the press officer was on vacation, and Montgomery was transferred to Reyes. The attorney, who spoke in two separate telephone calls, told Montgomery that it was potential voter fraud in Texas to register in a place where you don’t actually live, and she was quoted as saying Rove’s cottages don’t “sound like a residence to me, because it’s not a fixed place of habitation.” “

Whoops. But we’re just getting started.

“Reyes said yesterday that she was not aware that she was talking to a reporter, that she was not aware the discussion was about Rove, and that she had explained in the interviews that an individual’s intent to return to Texas is a primary factor in qualifying for residency.

In response to The Post’s story, Haywood called the paper to say that Rove could register to vote in Texas as long as he intended to return.”

Aha! It was all a dastardly journalist’s trick! Shades of Roz Russell’s Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday

And here comes Walter Burns — played in this version by Bob Balaban, rather than Cary Grant.

Today, The Post ran a correction stating that Reyes had not been asked about Rove by name and that the story should have mentioned Reyes’s explanation about the intent to return.

Robert J. McCartney, the paper’s assistant managing editor for local news, said, “Montgomery, in both conversations with Reyes, identified herself as working for The Post.” He also said that although Montgomery didn’t mention Rove by name, she told Reyes in the second interview that the inquiries were about a presidential adviser who had moved from Texas to Washington.

Well that could have been anybody, then. Karen Hughes for instance, right?

Oh hell, they’re all lower life-forms. Six of one half a dozen of the other. But this caper has Uncle Karl’s hob-nailed boots stamped all over it.

“Reyes said yesterday that she was summoned to a superior’s office Tuesday and told that the office was upset about the Post article. “I didn’t even know an article had been written,” she said. Reyes said she explained what had happened and later was called back to the supervisor’s office and told she was fired. “I was in complete shock,” she said. “I said, ‘Well, why?’ They said I violated the press policy.”

While she didn’t know she was talking to a reporter, Reyes said, the press policy doesn’t bar her from speaking with the media.
“The policy allows us to talk to members of the media,” she said. “The policy says if it’s a controversial issue or a special issue, it needs to be forwarded on to someone else. Just talking to the media doesn’t violate it, as I read it. . . . Karl Rove didn’t come up. It wasn’t something you could classify as controversial.”

She said she sent a certified letter yesterday asking that the matter be reconsidered.”

And indeed it may, in light of BushCo’s suffering so much Katrina Damage. Especially as so much of it is tied to unnamed sourcing to begin with as duly noted in a recent Howie Chat

“Fair Lawn, N.J.: The White House in trying to deflect responsibility from themselves, has started making things up. The Post ran a statement from an anonymous “administration offcial”, that Governor Blanco did not proclaim a state of emergency. This is a lie, but The Post passed it on without comment. The Post has since issued a correction, but are the readers owed a better correction? The source must be publically identified. Otherwise, what’s to stop people from spreading anonymous lies?

Howard Kurtz: The paper shouldn’t have published such an assertion without further checking, absolutely. If the source deliberately tried to mislead the reporter, then in my view the reporter is freed from the promise of confidentiality. But if the unnamed official was simply mistaken, that brings you into a gray area, but most reporters would say it doesn’t release them from their promise. (Newsweek, to take one example, didn’t identify the source who provided wrong information about the alleged Koran incident at Guantanamo). But all this could have been avoided by more diligant double-checking.”

Actually it could have been avoided by refusing to print anything BushCo says “off the record.” But Pravda‘s not about to do that, are they?

Meanwhile in related news . . .

New York Times reporter Judith Miller, locked up for refusing to reveal who told her a covert CIA operative’s name in a probe that may be nearing a conclusion, works part time at the jail laundry helping clean fellow inmates’ green jumpsuits and dirty linens.

Between shifts at the laundry, Miller works at the library on a card catalogue of the jail’s books, said attorney Floyd Abrams, offering new details about Miller’s life behind bars after meeting with her on Wednesday.

Abrams, who represents The New York Times, said Miller was “safe” but that conditions in jail were “grim.”

Librarians and laundresses everywhere are certain to take offense.

“This week Miller marked two months — 65 days as of Thursday — at the Alexandria Detention Centre just outside Washington for refusing to testify to a grand jury trying to determine who in the Bush administration leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.

Abrams said Miller remained “resolute” and would not reveal her confidential source to a grand jury in the case, which could shake up an administration already reeling from criticism over its response to Hurricane Katrina. The probe has ensnarled President George W. Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove.”

Yes Judy, looks like the team you’ve been batting for is about to be tossed out of the Majors.

“But lawyers close to the investigation say there are signs that the 20-month-long inquiry could be wrapped up within weeks in a final flurry of negotiations and legal manoeuvring.

Asked if talks were under way with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, a Justice Department prosecutor, to secure Miller’s testimony and release, Abrams said: “If there are any discussions, they would be private.” “

Not for long, Floyd! Wonder who these “lawyers close to the investigation” are in light of the fact that Fitzgerald doesn’t leak.

“She is there (in jail) for a reason. At this time, the reason is still there. She made a promise and, unless properly released from her promise by her source, she has no choice but to continue to take the position that she’s taking,” Abrams said.

He declined comment when asked if Miller, who was sent to jail on July 6 though she never wrote an article about the Plame matter, had reached out anew to her source for a clear release from confidentiality that would allow her to testify.

She’s there because she refused to cooperate with a criminal investigation. The “she’s being persecuted about a story she never wrote” line is needless tosay, spin. There’s no telling what Fitzgerald would have asked her about — Judy being so well-connected and all, both in the Beltway and out.

“Attorney Theodore Boutrous, who represents Time magazine and its reporter, Matthew Cooper, said Miller’s “standoff” with Fitzgerald may be coming to a head.”

Aha! That’s who “lawyers close the the investigation” constitutes — the wishful-thinking of the perp.

“Either Fitzgerald still needs Miller or he doesn’t,” Boutrous said. “It’s who blinks first. … You would think something needs to happen soon, one way or another.”

Unlike Miller, Cooper avoided jail by agreeing to testify after saying he received the “express personal consent” of his source to reveal his identity. The first person to tell him about Plame was Rove, Cooper said.

Plame’s husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, said the leak was meant to discredit him for criticising Bush’s Iraq policy in 2003 after a CIA-funded trip to investigate whether Niger helped supply nuclear materials to Baghdad.

Buzzards Over Baghdad was an early Jack Smith title for one of his endless unfinished projects.

“Several lawyers involved in the case say Fitzgerald was likely to wrap up his inquiry this fall, if not sooner, though they say they have not heard from his office in weeks.”

Well that’s all of Judy’s lawyers, plus all of Kenny Bania’s.

“The outcome could have political implications for Bush, whose approval ratings are already the lowest of his presidency.

After initially promising to fire anyone found to have leaked information in the case, Bush in July offered a more qualified pledge: “If someone committed a crime they will no longer work in my administration.”

Prominent Democrats have called on Bush to fire Rove, the architect of his two presidential election victories and now his deputy chief of staff, or block his access to classified information.

Rove’s attorneys said Rove did nothing wrong and has been repeatedly assured he is not a target of Fitzgerald’s investigation.”

He hopes.

“When Miller was jailed, chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said she must stay there until she agreed to testify or for the rest of the grand jury’s term, which lasts into October.

But if no deal is reached, lawyers say, Fitzgerald could step up pressure by threatening Miller with a longer sentence. Miller’s attorneys, in turn, could argue she has no intention of testifying and that her continued incarceration is of little consequence to Fitzgerald’s case since others have revealed their sources.”

As if.

An investigative reporter who covers national security and foreign policy issues, Miller is one of about 440 inmates at the Alexandria Detention Centre, according to its spokesman, Capt. Tony Davis.

Miller has been in a U.S. jail longer than any other newspaper journalist to protect a source, according to Abrams. The previous record-holder, he said, was a journalist from The Los Angeles Times who served for 48 days.

The Alexandria facility where Miller is being held has housed some of the nation’s most notorious spies and terror suspects. One floor above Miller’s cell is Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted in connection with the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Like other inmates, Miller has a small cell, which gets some natural light through a window and is “locked down” for the night at about 11:00 p.m. The cell is equipped with a toilet, a sink and a bed.

Davis declined to discuss Miller’s daily routine. Speaking generally, he said, inmates assigned to laundry detail help wash jail linens and blankets, as well as green jumpsuits marked with the word “PRISONER.”

Very Jasper Johns.

Meanwhile overat Romenesko, G. Stuart Smith, assistant professor, Hofstra Department of Journalism and Mass Media Studies writes:

“I just wanted to let you know that the faculty in the Hofstra Department of Journalism, Media Studies and Public Relations unanimously voted for a resolution in support of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and requesting he immediate release from jail. Our department chair, Dr. Barbara Kelly, is sending a letter and the resolution to Judge Thomas F. Hogan, the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald and the New York congressional delegation.”

to whit —

Whereas, The free flow of information is vital to maintaining a civil, democratic society,

Whereas, Journalists sometimes need anonymous sources to ferret out information about government activities that citizens need to remain fully informed and make enlightened decisions about their government,

Whereas, New York Times Reporter Judith Miller refused to testify about an anonymous source before a grand jury empanelled by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald,

Whereas, U. S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, at the request of Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald, held Ms. Miller in contempt of court for refusing to reveal an anonymous source,

Whereas, Ms. Miller has been held in jail since July 6th for contempt of court,

Whereas, Judge Hogan has ordered Ms. Miller held in jail until the grand jury term ends in October or until she reveals her source to the grand jury,

Whereas, This jailing of a journalist protecting her source will discourage other anonymous sources from coming forward to expose government malfeasance or misfeasance and discourage journalists from offering sources anonymity,

Whereas, The lack of anonymous sources could lead to fewer exposés of public corruption and have a chilling effect on the free flow of information vital to the public,

Therefore, We, the faculty of Hofstra University’s Department of Journalism, Media Studies and Public Relations, urge Judge Hogan to release Ms. Miller from jail immediately and absolve her of any source-related contempt of court charges. We also urge Congress to pass “The Free Flow of Information Act,” which would give journalists the same privilege of protecting the confidentiality afforded to clergy, attorneys and physicians. And we call on all journalists and their organizations to carefully scrutinize the use of anonymous sources, keeping in mind their sacred duty under the First Amendment to be the watchdogs for the public interest.

Whereas the above are full of shit.

Meanwhile back at the REAL story:

“Berkeley, Calif.: The Post published an incorrect report that the La. Governor had not declared a state of emergency about a week after she had. A White House source was cited. Why didn’t you check this? Do you kno why the White House provided false info? Were they that clueless or that dishonest? I think The Post owes us some answers about its own work and the White House on this.

Robert G. Kaiser: This seems a fair point to me. I’m sitting here anwering questions so can’t immediately find out what our plans are, but I hope they include revisiting this matter for our readers’ benefit.”

That’s the least you can do, Bob. The very least you can do.