Time Reporter Refuses To Testify in Case of Outted CIA Operative

StoryAugust 10, 2004
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We speak with journalist David Corn of The Nation about the case of Time magazine reporter Mathew Cooper. A federal judge in Washington is him in contempt of court and has ordered him jailed for refusing to name the government officials who disclosed the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. [includes rush transcript]

A federal judge in Washington is holding Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in contempt of court and has ordered him jailed for refusing to name the government officials who disclosed the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame to him. The magazine was also held in contempt and ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 a day. Like Cooper, Tim Russert, of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” received a subpoena in May. But unlike Cooper, Russert agreed to cooperate. In a statement, NBC said Mr. Russert was interviewed under oath by prosecutors on Saturday. A Washington Post reporter, Glenn Kessler, was interviewed by prosecutors in June. A second Post reporter, Walter Pincus, said he received a subpoena yesterday. We are joined now by a reporter who has been one of the leading journalists on the story of Valerie Plame”s outting from the beginning.

  • David Corn, Washington Editor of The Nation magazine. He is also author of The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re now joined by a reporter who is one of the leading journalists on the story of Valerie Plame’s outing from the beginning, David Corn, Washington Editor of the Nation magazine, author of the book, The Lies of George W. Bush. Welcome to Democracy Now!

DAVID CORN: Hi Amy. Good to be with you!

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of what is happening now? One reporter after another is being questioned and Matthew keeps refusing?

DAVID CORN: Well, it’s important to understand that we–reporters apparently are being questioned–their testimony is being sought by Pat Fitzgerald as the prosecutor in the case. I think it’s for different reasons. If you look at Tim Russert, Tim Russert apparently had a conversation with Scooter Libby who is the chief of staff of Vice President Cheney, and a lot of the–a lot of the leaks —they’re not even leaks–the quasi— leaks that have come out in the investigation indicate that Fitzgerald has spent a lot of time looking Libby as possible source of the information that outed Joe Wilson’s wife, Valley Plame as CIA officer. In the Russert case, it–Libby and Libby and Russert have said that Libby had a conversation with him and Russert agreed and Fitzgerald wanted to ask Russert about that. Libby waived his confidential rights with Russert, so Russert could tell them what happened in the conversation. By Russert’s testimony, it wasn’t related or it didn’t include the outing of Valley Plame. It wasn’t related to that. So, that was–the Russert agreed to answer the–very, very limited specific questions about a conversation in which Libby said, go ahead and–please talk to the prosecutor about it. Then in the Cooper case, Time magazine, the Novak column came out on July 14th, 2003. On July 16th, 2003, I was the first reporter to note that the Novak column, which contained the leak about Valerie Plame was possible evidence of a White House crime. The next time, Time magazine in the second Plame’s identity to the magazine. Matt Cooper wrote that piece, so it’s obvious that Fitzgerald wants now him and Time are saying we’re not going to do this. We’re not going to reveal our sources and say who it was that told us this. So, this gets to the heart of the case that Fitzgerald is trying to make, trying to cover who was it that leaked the information.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, let’s remember that Ashcroft, the Attorney General, has recused himself. David Corn, if you can explain why this case was handed over to Pat Fitzgerald.

DAVID CORN: Because the CIA requested the Justice Department investigate the leak, because it was focused on the White House, it was thought–I think reasonably so, that John Ashcroft, who is a political appointee who answers to the White House should not be in charge of the investigation. Should not be overseeing the investigation. He recused himself because of his closeness to the White House and to Karl Rove and others who might be targets of the investigation, and James Komi, the Deputy Attorney General then handed it over to Pat Fitzgerald. They call him a special counsel, technically he’s not. A special counsel, according to Justice Department rules has to be somebody outside the Justice Department. He is a U.S. Attorney in Chicago so he is employed by the Justice Department, but he does have a reputation for being independent. Again we–we’re outside with our noses pressed against the window trying to get a sense of what his investigation is–has been doing, and the signs are that he has been making a real stab at finding out what’s going on. He has a good reputation as being a good investigator. He doesn’t get involved in a lot of politic, so maybe he actually is. It’s still unclear how much progress he is making, and certainly, if he’s going to Time magazine and Matt Cooper and other, and saying, tell me who your sources are, maybe–it may be an indication that he hasn’t been able to make a case otherwise.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think reporters should do with some reporter speaking to prosecutors, others not?

DAVID CORN: You know, I tend to think that if you–if you’re a reporter and you promise confidentiality to a source, you have to keep that confidentiality. Unless, of course, you are talking about preventing a murder from happening or something extreme. If you go back to your source or if your source says, I release you from this,–from this confidentiality agreement, as happened in the Russert case, then it’s fair to talk about it and say this is what happened. But–now, it seems to me there’s another step here that people often loose. That is when Novak–first Robert Novak first reported the story -

AMY GOODMAN: We have ten seconds.

DAVID CORN: He said that the story is that the White House is trying to destroy Joe Wilson and not put the leak through. He could have flipped the tables on them. He chose not to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: David Corn, thanks for being with us, from The Nation magazine, and his book, The Lies of George W. Bush.

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