- The Washington Times - Monday, July 25, 2005

Sunday’s roundtable on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” provided yet another example of how some in the mainstream media substitute hyperbole and misinformation for fact in reporting on the investigation of how Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA agent became public knowledge.

The assembled journalists discussed the jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller for refusing to testify before a grand jury in the Plame case and the debate over a federal “shield” law protecting reporters from being forced to disclose confidential sources. NBC White House Correspondent David Gregory said that any such discussion should be accompanied by a discussion of the need for journalists to behave responsibly. Journalistic confidentiality, he indicated, is acceptable when used “to put a check on government,” but is bad if “it is to be a vehicle for what may have been an egregious abuse of power here [in the Wilson-Plame case] in smearing someone who’s part of our national security apparatus.” Journalists “have to be very careful about this idea of confidentiality,” Mr. Gregory said, indicating that this may be part of the reason “that there has not been more of a cry on behalf of Judy Miller.”

But neither Mr. Gregory nor anyone else has put forward any information demonstrating that the Bush administration “smeared” Mrs. Plame or her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson — a vociferous critic of the president’s Iraq policy who was dispatched to Africa in February 2002 by the CIA to see whether Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase “yellowcake” uranium from Niger. The fact is that virtually every major assertion Mr. Wilson has made in about his Niger trip is, to put it charitably, open to question. The Senate Intelligence Committee found that, contrary to Mr. Wilson’s repeated denials, Mrs. Plame suggested him for the mission. As we noted before, the panel found that Mr. Wilson’s report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And the committee found that Mr. Wilson claimed to debunk reports that he had no knowledge of. If Mr. Gregory has some information that has not been made public suggesting that someone in the administration has peddled false information about Mr. Wilson, then he should bring it forward. If not, he would do well to choose his words more carefully.

On the same roundtable, Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio asserted that Mrs. Plame had a “whole network of people who dealt with her about weapons of mass destruction, and her whole network was put in jeopardy by the revelation of her identity.” Why this would be the fault of the nefarious Bush administration is unclear, given the facts that: 1) her identity as an undercover CIA agent was compromised twice beforehand, including once in the mid-1990s by a Moscow spy; and 2) she was by all accounts working under very light cover for the CIA, as evidenced by the fact that numerous neighbors were aware that she worked for the agency.

Mrs. Totenberg would do well to take a deep breath and spare us the hyperbole.

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