There’s been much media coverage of the reporters threatened with jail over protecting anonymous sources on the Victoria Plame story, in which the cover of a Central Intelligence Agency operative was blown in a government leak to conservative columnist Robert Novak. Time Inc. is turning over notes today that may prevent imprisonment for its reporter and that of The New York Times (who never even wrote on the topic).
Meanwhile, Novak refuses to discuss why he was never threatened with jail time and — this is the inexplicable part — the media stays almost universally silent on the identity of the leaker.
It was I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Cheney.
Susan Stabley, a reporter for the South Florida Business Journal, makes this point in a Tuesday letter to the Romenesko media Web site and even provides a link to The Washington Post’s story providing the information. But Libby remains unmentioned even in today’s coverage of Time Inc.’s decision. As Stabley says:
Cooper was the speaker at the recent [Society of Professional Journalists] awards in South Florida. He told a room full of reporters that he revealed his source ... after Libby released him from his obligation to protect his identity. The Washington Post reported the identity ... in August 2004. Cooper told us at the SPJ event that his current legal crisis had to do with a follow-up subpoena from investigators who were fishing for all his notes.
... So, again, why why why, is not the name of the source ... in every single story about Miller-Cooper-Novak? And instead of wondering about Novak, I want to know: what will happen to Libby?
Meanwhile, topping even this, the Bush administration intends to promote the military officials overseeing Abu Ghraib, where soldiers tortured Iraqi prisoners, almost all of whom were eventually found to be innocents. This is a pattern for the White House, where the biggest failures — such as preventing 9/11 or planning well for the Iraq war and its aftermath — are rewarded while conscience and competence are punished as disloyal.
There’s only one way to make sense of this, and Joseph Heller did it in 1961 in his horrifically funny “Catch-22” when Yossarian, intent on destroying a bridge, takes a squadron of airplanes around a second time after failing to drop his bombs the first time. He gets the bridge, but another airplane is destroyed, killing all aboard.
”We’re trying to be perfectly objective about this,” Colonel Cathcart said to Yossarian with the zeal of sudden inspiration. “It’s not that I’m being sentimental or anything. I don’t give a damn about the men or the airplane. It’s just that it looks so lousy on the report. How am I going to cover up something like this in the report?”
“Why don’t you give me a medal?” Yossarian suggested timidly.
“For going around twice?”
“You gave one to Hungry Joe when he cracked up that airplane by mistake.”
Colonel Cathcart snickered ruefully. “You’ll be lucky if we don’t give you a court-martial.”
... “Why don’t we give him a medal?” Colonel Korn proposed.
“For going around twice? What can we give him a medal for?”
“For going around twice,” Colonel Korn answered with a reflective, self-satisfied smile. “After all, I suppose it did take a lot of courage to go over that target a second time ... And he did hit the bridge. You know, that might be the answer — to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That’s a trick that never seems to fail.”
“Do you think it will work?”
“I’m sure it will. And let’s promote him to captain, too, just to make certain.”