Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 22, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

IDLE CHATTER?....The New York Times reports today that in a memo to editor Bill Keller, Judith Miller said that when Scooter Libby told her Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, it was nothing but casual conversation:

She wrote that...she had discussed Mr. Wilson and his wife with government officials, but "I was unaware that there was a deliberate, concerted disinformation campaign to discredit Wilson and that if there had been, I did not think I was a target of it."

Compare that to Robert Novak's self-defense from two years ago:

I would like to stress three points. First, I did not receive a planned leak....During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger.

The story from both of these extremely experienced reporters is that the disclosure to them of Plame's employment was nothing but idle chatter. Nothing planned about it. They want us to believe that the only way White House operatives plant rumors is to pick up the phone, dial it methodically, and then spit out the dirt along with a request to please try to see that this ends up on the front page.

They should stop insulting our intelligence. Intelligent adults don't operate this crudely and they both know it. They're either lying or else exceptionally gullible. Here's what we've known since September of 2003:

A senior administration official said two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and revealed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife...."Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.

I have no doubt that these officials did their best to make their disclosures sound casual. Miller and Novak either fell for it, or else were willing accomplices. Neither option speaks well for their ability to do their job.

UPDATE: In the original version of this post I said that Novak's initial source was now known to be Scooter Libby, but Libby's lawyer says Libby never spoke to Novak. My memory must have been playing tricks on me. The text has been corrected.

Kevin Drum 1:58 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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