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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hurricane Fitzgerald Approaches the White House by Nicholas Kristof

I, for one, see NOTHING disgraceful, Mr. Kristof, in Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation. And to compare it to Ken Starr's? I am repulsed, Mr. Kristof, at your equating treason and oral sex. I am loathe to post your column, but needs must.

October 25, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Hurricane Fitzgerald Approaches the White House
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Before dragging any Bush administration officials off to jail, we should pause and take a long, deep breath.

In the 1990's, we saw the harm that special prosecutors can do: they become obsessive, pouncing on the picayune, distracting from governing and frustrating justice more than serving it. That was true particularly of Kenneth Starr's fanatical pursuit of Bill Clinton and of the even more appalling 10-year investigation into inconsequential lies by Henry Cisneros, the former housing secretary.

Special prosecutors always seem to morph into Inspector Javert, the Victor Hugo character whose vision of justice is both mindless and merciless. We don't know what evidence has been uncovered by Patrick Fitzgerald, but we should be uneasy that he is said to be mulling indictments that aren't based on his prime mandate, investigation of possible breaches of the 1982 law prohibiting officials from revealing the names of spies.

Instead, Mr. Fitzgerald is rumored to be considering mushier kinds of indictments, for perjury, obstruction of justice or revealing classified information. Sure, flat-out perjury must be punished. But if the evidence is more equivocal, then indictments would mark just the kind of overzealous breach of prosecutorial discretion that was a disgrace when Democrats were targeted.

And it would be just as disgraceful if Republicans are the targets.

There is, of course, plenty of evidence that White House officials behaved abominably in this affair. I'm offended by the idea of a government official secretly using the news media - under the guise of a "former Hill staffer" - to attack former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. That's sleazy and outrageous. But a crime?

I'm skeptical, even though there seems to have been a coordinated White House campaign against Mr. Wilson. One indication of that coordination is that, as I've reported earlier, I received a call at the same time, in June 2003, from yet another senior White House official, who chided me for two columns in which I discussed Mr. Wilson's trip to Niger but didn't use his name.

My caller never said anything inappropriate or mentioned Mr. or Mrs. Wilson. But the White House was clearly on the warpath - even before Mr. Wilson went public in his July 2003 Op-Ed article - to defend itself from his allegations and from the idea that the administration had cooked the Iraq intelligence.

My guess is that the participants in a White House senior staff meeting discussed Mr. Wilson's trip and the charges that the administration had knowingly broadcast false information about uranium in Niger - and then decided to take the offensive. The leak of Mrs. Wilson's identity resulted from that offensive, but it may well have been negligence rather than vengeance. I question whether the White House knew that she was a noc (nonofficial cover), and I wonder whether some official spread the word of Mrs. Wilson's work at the C.I.A. to make her husband's trip look like a nepotistic junket.

That was appalling. It meant that any person ever linked to Mrs. Wilson or to her front company was at grave risk. And we in journalism have extended too much professional courtesy to Robert Novak, who was absolutely wrong to print the disclosure.

But there's also no need to exaggerate it. The C.I.A. believed that Mrs. Wilson's identity had already been sold to the Russians by Aldrich Ames by 1994, and she had begun the process of switching to official cover as a State Department officer.

To me, the whisper campaign against Mr. Wilson amounts to back-stabbing politics, but not to obvious criminality. And if indictments are issued for White House officials on vague charges of revealing classified information, that will have a chilling effect on the reporting of national security issues. The ultimate irony would come if we ended up strengthening the Bush administration's ability to operate in secret.

One can believe that the neocons are utterly wrong without also assuming that they are evil. And one can yearn for Scooter Libby's exit from the White House - to be, say, ambassador to Nauru - without dreaming of him in chains.

So I find myself repulsed by the glee that some Democrats show at the possibility of Karl Rove and Mr. Libby being dragged off in handcuffs. It was wrong for prosecutors to cook up borderline and technical indictments during the Clinton administration, and it would be just as wrong today. Absent very clear evidence of law-breaking, the White House ideologues should be ousted by voters, not by prosecutors.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have trouble with trying to draw a line between a "technical" indictment law and a "non-technical" indictment. If there is sufficient evidence to suggest that a crime was committed (be it perjury or whatever), then there should be an indictment, especially when the alleged crime occurs at the highest level of our government.

9:22 AM  
Anonymous trinitysitesarah@yahoo.com said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mockingbird

Operation Mockingbird is a Central Intelligence Agency operation to influence domestic and foreign media discovered during the Church Committee investigation in 1975 (published 1976):

"The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets."[1].
The word Mockingbird was first used by Deborah Davis in Katharine the Great (1979). There is no evidence that the CIA called it this. In fact, when Cord Meyer joined the operation in 1951 he said it was so secret it did not have a name. [2].

Carl Bernstein, who had worked with Bob Woodward in the investigation of Watergate, provided further information about Operation Mockingbird in an article in Rolling Stone in October, 1977. Bernstein claimed that over a 25 year period over 400 American journalists secretly carried out assignments for the CIA:

"Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors-without-portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested it the derring-do of the spy business as in filing articles, and, the smallest category, full-time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad." [27]
It is almost certain that Bernstein had encountered Operation Mockingbird while working on his Watergate investigation. For example, Deborah Davis (Katharine the Great) has argued - incorrectly, as it turned out - that Deep Throat was senior CIA official, Richard Ober, who was running Operation Chaos for Richard Nixon during this period. [28]

Has Mockingbird Been Closed Down?
According to researchers such as Steve Kangas [29], Angus Mackenzie [30] and Alex Constantine [31], Operation Mockingbird was not closed down by the CIA in 1976. For example, in 1998 Kangas argued that CIA asset Richard Mellon Scaife ran "Forum World Features, a foreign news service used as a front to disseminate CIA propaganda around the world." [32]

On 8th February, 1999, Kangas was found dead in the bathroom of the Pittsburgh offices of Richard Mellon Scaife. He had been shot in the head. Officially he had committed suicide but some people believe he was murdered. In an article in Salon Magazine, (19th March, 1999) Andrew Leonard asked:

"Why did the police report say the gun wound was to the left of his head, while the autopsy reported a wound on the roof of his mouth? Why had the hard drive on his computer been erased shortly after his death? Why had Scaife assigned his No. 1 private detective, Rex Armistead, to look into Kangas' past?" [33]
On 27th June 2005, the World Tribunal on Iraq published their preliminary declaration of the Jury of Conscience World Tribunal on Iraq. Finding and Charges Against the Major Corporate Media:

"1. Disseminating the deliberate falsehoods spread by the governments of the US and the UK and failing to adequately investigate this misinformation. This even in the face of abundant evidence to the contrary. Among the corporate media houses that bear special responsibility for promoting the lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, we name the New York Times, in particular their reporter Judith Miller, whose main source was on the payroll of the CIA. We also name Fox News, CNN and the BBC."[34]

According to Carl Bernstein 400 reporters were working for the CIA as part of Operation Mockingbird. These include, but are not limited to:

CBS (William Paley)
Chattanooga Times (Charles Bartlett)
Christian Science Monitor (Joseph Harrison)
Copley News Services (James Copley)
Louisville Courier-Journal (Barry Bingham Sr.)
Miami News (William C. Baggs, Herb Gold, Hal Hendrix)
Newsweek (Ben Bradlee)
New York Herald Tribune (Stewart Alsop)
New York Times (Arthur Hays Sulzberger)
Time Magazine (Alfred Friendly, Charles Douglas Jackson, Henry Luce)
Washington Post (Walter Pincus)
Washington Star (Jerry O'Leary)

11:01 PM  
Blogger jenny said...

damn sarah! i had not heard about that at all. thanks!

5:02 PM  

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