"The Leak": Why Not Subpoena Robert Novak? (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Wed, 16 Feb 2005

"The Leak": Why Not Subpoena Robert Novak?

I am just utterly not understanding this story on "The Leak".

The news yesterday: Matthew Cooper (Time magazine) and Judith Miller (the New York Times) are to be subpoenaed in the ongoing "Leak" case. (LA Times, or via Yahoo)

You remember "The Leak". Joseph Wilson, the CIA investigator sent to Niger to trace rumours that Saddam Hussein had tried to purchase "yellowcake" uranium, wrote an opinion column in the New York Times accusing President Bush of "misrepresenting the facts on an issue that was fundamental justification for going to war." Wilson's published report had stated the rumours were false, but Bush ignored the report and quoted the rumours as fact in his 2003 State of the Union address.

Roughly a week later, Washington Post columnist Robert Novak wrote that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative, citing information from a "senior administration official".

It being a crime to reveal the identity of an undercover CIA operative, Bush at the time vowed to "find the leak". The current update in the case means two other reporters, Cooper and Miller, who supposedly were also contacted by the same "senior administration official", will be called to testify as to the identity of the person who contacted them. If they refuse, they face imprisonment for contempt of court.

The papers are full of outraged articles arguing that reporters should never be forced to reveal sources, and waving their "First Amendment" flags. And that's fine -- I have no problem with journalists protecting sources.

What I completely don't understand is: Why are Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller, who never wrote anything about the case, being subpoenaed and threatened with improsonment, while Robert Novak, who wrote the article which started all this, is not?

Why, in all the journalistic breast-beating which has accompanied this case, does no one ever suggest concentrating on Novak to find The Leak's identity?

Novak is the reporter who published the article outing Plame. Novak is the reporter who clearly had a source. Sure, question other sources, but why isn't Novak the prime, number-one source in this investigation?

A cynical friend says it's because Novak is a Bush administration mouthpiece, who did the administration's bidding in publishing the article, while Cooper and Miller did not.

Perhaps. But if that's the case, shouldn't that itself be news?

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[ 11:12 Feb 16, 2005    More headlines | permalink to this entry ]