Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Talking David S. Cloud Subpoena Blues
The other day I wrote:
"Jeff Gannon never saw any freakin' internal government memo and just straight out plagiarized The Wall Street Journal when he asked Joe Wilson his infamous question."
While I can't prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt, I believe my argument (which I originally blogged back on February 22nd) is pretty darn strong and it has, at least, created some doubt for a few bloggers who may have thought otherwise before: eriposte at The Left Coaster, ReddHedd at firedoglake, Blue Meme, and Joseph Cannon at Cannonfire.
But, today, I'm arguing something else, which is perhaps even more clearcut.
David S. Cloud never saw any freakin' internal government memo before he wrote his October 17, 2003 article for The Wall Street Journal.
(Cloud's "Memo May Aid Leak Probe" hit the Web just a few minutes after midnight on October 17th, 2003 as shown at the bottom of this Cryptome generated page: link).
Yesterday, one of the top bloggers on the Plame leak trail came to a similiar conclusion.
At The Next Hurrah, emptywheel's "Head in a Cloud," at first wondered why David S. Cloud was absent from a list of journalists that had been subpoenaed according to a Newsday article (reprinted at JustOneMinute), before concluding that Cloud most probably didn't see the memo since the information in his WSJ article didn't jibe with what we now believe we know was in that memo (or memos or memo and copy of memo...fact is...we don't know a whole helluva lot and it's hard to keep up with all the variations on the story which seem to change every other day at least).
I'm not sure why anyone thinks that David Cloud (who now writes for The New York Times) saw a memo in the first place.
A close reading of Cloud's article clearly shows that he never saw it.
If he had he wouldn't have been forced to write the following (I added boldness to the parts I want to emphasize):
"An internal government memo addresses some of the mysteries at the center of the White House leak investigation and could help investigators in the search for who disclosed the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency operative, according to two people familiar with the memo."....
"According to current and former officials familiar with the memo, it describes interagency discussions of the yellowcake mystery: whether the reports of Iraq's uranium purchases were credible; which agency should pay for any further investigation; and the suggestion that Mr. Wilson could be sent to check out the allegations."
"Other officials with knowledge of the memo wouldn't say if it mentions Ms. Plame by name as the one who suggested Mr. Wilson, or if her identity is shielded but obvious because of what is known now about the mission."
If David Cloud had the memo or had seen the memo he wouldn't have had to use other sources to tell him what was in the memo (or what may not be in the memo...hey...don't blame me for the freakin' confusion).
But there's something else about this David S. Cloud story that is rather interesting.
Cloud very deftly never refers to any official as having seen the memo. They are just "familiar" with it or "have knowledge."
Now, the question is, why did Cloud do that?
Was it to protect himself?
Because in that very same article he explains the cost of seeing such a document:
"Classified memos, like the one describing Ms. Plame's role, have limited circulation and investigators are likely to question all those known to have received it."
Emptywheel rightly recognizes that Cloud's article "was remarkably balanced and thorough." Bloggers that believe that Cloud and The Wall Street Journal wrote about the memo in order to help with the smearing of a whistleblower really should reread it. The title, itself, states that the memo would most probably "aid" the investigation.
But did Cloud's multiple unnamed official sources speak to him on the condition that he not write that they actually saw the memo or did he adjust the language so that he wouldn't get ensnared in the probe?
That's one to ponder.
I don't believe David S. Cloud saw the memo before he wrote this article (and there is no proof that any journalist ever did no matter how many times the word "circulated" is circulated by unnamed CIA officials or fake-named plagiarizing "journalists").
And if David S. Cloud wasn't subpoenaed then that may be the reason why.
But that reason is wrong.
David S. Cloud should've been hauled in front of the grand jury because his sources could've been lying when they said they were only "familiar" with the memo. And, although, that being the case, Cloud didn't take the bait and turn his article into a hatchet job the officials that spoke to him would have been guilty of contributing to the smear by disseminating information from a top secret memo.
In closing (well...it is an argument), even though I believe, like Judith Miller and others, Cloud should be subpoenaed I still don't think he should be compelled to give up his sources because I'm still not budging from my opinion that that should never be forced upon a journalist. Even though, in this case, a federal shield law wouldn't do anything to protect any of the journalists involved, I still believe that Judith Miller and The New York Times acted properly, back then, as opposed to Matt Cooper and Time.
Compelling journalists to hand over their notebooks goes against everything a free press should be about and it could scare away potential whistleblowers.
As in "real" whistleblowers not government officials who are just trying to get the MSM to propagate their propaganda. The other week in a nauseating interview on Lou Dobbs' CNN show, the wannabe heroine did her best "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" by claiming to be standing up for the little people (link):
"I didn't want to be in jail, but I knew that the principle of confidentiality was so important that I had to, because if people can't trust us to come to us to tell us the things that government and powerful corporations don't want us to know, we're dead in the water. The public won't know."
I've read an awful lot of Judith Miller's "journalism" the last few years, and I can't think of one time when she ever wrote one word that the "government and powerful organizations don't want us to know." Hopefully, she'll get to that some day, now that she has martyred herself for the cause (but I wouldn't take a million-to-one odds and lay a bet on that).
There is little question that Miller and The Times are not acting properly now. They owe their readers a shitload of answers, and the "paper of record" is letting itself get scooped each and every day by bloggers and direct competitors in the fourth estate.
As press critic, NYU journalism professor, and Pressthink blogger Jay Rosen puts it:
"Not only is the Times not operating properly, it’s unable to say to readers: here’s why we’re not operating properly."
If David S. Cloud wasn't subpoenaed then the Patrick Fitzgerald probe hasn't operated properly, either.