Accuracy in Media

The anti-Bush bias that drove the CBS Evening News under Dan Rather continues under substitute anchorman Bob Schieffer and his substitute John Roberts. After days of accusing White House aide Karl Rove of leaking the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame, the news media reported that Rove got the name from journalists. But that didn’t stop CBS from continuing to insist that Rove may have somehow violated the law.

The attacks on Rove had always fallen short of the mark. The Matt Cooper notes in the case, seized upon by the media, show that Rove was asked about the case, didn’t identify her by name, and mentioned her only in passing while giving a warning about relying on her husband, the notoriously unreliable and deceptive Joe Wilson.  Still, the CBS Evening News on July 15 was determined to keep the heat on Rove.

Citing unnamed legal experts, reporter Gloria Borger said that “the cover-up could be worse than the crime” and somebody could have lied to federal investigators or the grand jury. Rove “is in a very tough spot here,” she told substitute anchor John Roberts, because the President promised to fire anybody who illegally leaked the name of a covert CIA operative.

It’s true that somebody could be indicted, but there’s no indication at least at this point that Rove could be indicted for illegally leaking classified information about a secret CIA operative.

Borger also showed a brief clip of former CIA counsel Jeff Smith, who said that the statute was “clear” and that “It does not have to be a specific name of the individual. It is any information that identifies the covert agent. It is clear that somebody broke the law here.”

But it isn’t at all clear. Bruce Sanford, one of the authors of the statute, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, appeared on CNN and the Fox News Channel to say there was no violation of the law. He said on CNN, “That’s pretty clear from the [Cooper] notes, the e-mails that Time magazine released to the grand jury that [White House political adviser] Karl Rove said that [former Ambassador Joseph] Wilson’s wife-he didn’t even use her name-but Wilson’s wife ‘apparently works’ at the CIA. It seems to me there’s a substantial question whether she qualifies as the kind of covert agent that was envisioned by the act. There are very tight requirements for that. And there is a substantial doubt whether the agency was taking the kind of affirmative measures to conceal her identity that the act talks about.”

On the matter of Plame being a covert agent, Sanford said that “I think a covert agent under the act has to be someone who has deep cover, who is working abroad. Not just traveling abroad, but is stationed and working abroad sometime within the last five years. And USA Today reported that?the Wilsons were married in 1998. There’s some question whether she was even abroad during the last five years. She really had a desk job at [CIA headquarters in] Langley [Virginia] and was driving in and out of the CIA every day. That’s not exactly deep cover.”

Sanford went on to say that “It is worth remembering that when Robert Novak, the columnist, disclosed her identity in his column, he had called the CIA to tell them he was going to do that, and they didn’t stop him. They did not do what the CIA normally does in that situation if they want to protect or continue to protect somebody’s identity…They didn’t call his syndicate. They didn’t scream at him, say you’re going to endanger her life or [en]danger her career, that sort of thing. They just sort of shrugged and said, ‘Well, I guess she won’t be getting any more overseas assignments.’ I don’t think that’s the kind of affirmative measures that the agency needs to be taking in order to invoke the statute.”

On July 16, however, the New York Times reported that the case involved “blowing her cover as a covert operative.”  The Times won’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. Its agenda is the same as CBS-get Bush through Rove.

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