Friday, July 22, 2005

Some Interesting Loose Ends in the Leak Case

Recently a reader (who, like most of my readers, is also a dear friend) asked me why I hadn't written much of anything about the Plame case. As those who were readers of that other blog may recall, I was hot on the trail of this story back when it first broke, and in fact made lots of fairly wild predictions about the consequences that have yet to come true.

This last fact is probably what has kept me more or less silent on the matter during this new flare-up of the controversy. I frankly am a little snakebit by the whole thing. It did not occur to me at the time that it might take two years for prosecutors to investigate the matter, or that during that entire time the media would basically take a dive on investigating it.

Those of us who followed the case closely knew at the time that the Plame leak was probably the most significant political story since Iran/Contra, or at least that it was the key event in that story. The fact that no one seemed interested in talking about it fed into a lot of defeatism (at least on my part) about the corporate press being in the pocket of the administration.

One thing I think I'm coming to understand now is that the main reason no one wanted to cover this story originally is that covering this story is really hard. It's complex, there is a lot of information you simply cannot get, and the only real way to produce large amounts of copy on it is either to speculate wildly or to go Gonzo, basically writing stories about trying to get the story.

So now that Rove and Libby have been outed as at least being involved in the spreading of Plame's name, the White House is sending folks out to give quotes about it and it becomes easier to write stories on it again. Perhaps when this is all over we can use this as a case study of what is wrong with the media as it operates today. It's clear to me now the main problem is not one of bias but one of basic competency, and to some degree of conflict of interest (conflict between the reporter's interest in informing her reader today and her need to get information from government officials to inform the reader tomorrow.)

There is a big campaign on the right currently to make this whole thing seem like much ado about nothing. However, David Corn has pointed out that the investigation has reached a point where somebody will have to be indicted for perjury at the very least, since Rove, Libby, Matt Cooper and Tim Russert have given materially contradictory testimony to the grand jury.

In other words, somebody lied under oath.

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