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wrote. He continued: “Establishment reporters undoubtedly know a lot of things I don’t. But a lot of what they know isn’t true.” Plamegate is rich with symptoms of the journalistic malignancy Stone diagnosed. Most obvious among them is Times reporter Miller, whose blind acceptance of lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction from sources such as Cheney handmaiden I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby is unforgettable. Miller’s ill-founded front-page stories “were deeply flawed, highly partisan and often wrong,” Pearlstine writes, joining a chorus of harsh critics. So when Miller, counseled by Abrams, played Joan of Arc in an orange jumpsuit rather than reveal Libby as a source, even some media First Amendment absolutists winced. Libby and Karl Rove peddled the Plame leak everywhere. Pearlstine argues that half a dozen media heavyweights who obtained waivers of confidentiality from Rove and Libby before cooperating with prosecutors did not compromise journalistic principles. After 85 nights in jail, Miller also accepted a written waiver, which she had received from Libby months before she went to prison. Pearlstine portrays Abrams as not “pragmatic” enough and Miller as unnecessarily grandstanding, hiding behind the First Amendment. “Miller looked bad,” writes Pearlstine, and her civil disobedience jail gig “suggested she was willing to obstruct justice to protect a source [Libby] who didn’t require protection.” Since Watergate, the media have labeled every scandal a “gate.” Plamegate exposed the “sleazy and shameless” behavior of a vengeful administration, notes Pearlstine. It brought down one White House insider and semi-skewered Cheney and the now-departed Rove. Unlike Watergate, it did not bring down a president. The case set precedents that further endanger the rights of journalists in a time when the president wages all-out war against investigative reporters. Yet a complex conundrum remains unresolved. How much fidelity does a reporter owe a source who deliberately lies? Or leaks nefarious vendettas? Or might be a party to a criminal act? The use of confidential sources is at times essential, as it was for the Washington Post’s Dana Priest, who broke the story of CIA secret foreign torture prisons. And for the New York Times scoop on National Security Agency warrantless spying written by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau. It is heartening that all three won Pulitzer Prizes, even as Bush, Cheney, and Alberto Gonzales went after them like baying hounds, cheered on by Wall Street Journal editorials. The dearly departed Gonzales wanted to revive the World War I Espionage Act to criminally prosecute these journalists. The best in the business develop sources in the “bowels of the government, where the really good sources are as Stone once noted. “They are good public servants, very often breaking their hearts with frustration?’ But too many reporters grant “confidentiality” as easily as meter maids dispense parking tickets. When journalists are seduced by transparent, first-name flattery, or when their publishers demand access, disgraceful coziness with top officials is not far behindalthough it is a mystery why any reporters think they are going to get anything but self-serving spin. Tim Russert tellingly testified, as Pearlstine paraphrases, “that he assumed all phone calls from high government officials are confidential or on deep background. In doing so, he acknowledged one of the biggest problems with Washington journalisma symbiosis between reporters and sources in which the reporters often think it is their first job to protect their sources and that informing the public comes second.” In the Plame affair a sacrosanct principleone worth defending whenever necessarywas clouded by a bad case. For his part, Pearlstine initially fought giving up confidential sources, then took heat from reporters for deciding to cooperate with prosecutors. Although decrying Pearlstine’s boardroom proclivities, the Columbia Journalism Review noted that his pragmatism was “probably appropriate in the Plame case, and perhaps it should have been pursued at an earlier juncture.” Columnist Bob Novak, chief carrier of dirty water for Rove and company, started it all with the column that outed Plame in 2003. Journalists don’t go to jail for bad reporting, but if they did, there would be a cell waiting for Novak. He printedwithout any verification the lie that Plame had “suggested” to the CIA that her husband go to Nigeria to investigate reports that Iraq was seeking uranium. The reason, as Pearlstine writes, was to imply that “Wilson’s trip not an act of government service but a politically motivated bit of nepotism.” Novak’s column blew Plame’s cover and career, and Walter Pincus and Mike Allen reported in the Washington Post that Novak’s disclosure of her name also exposed a CIA front company. Some congressional Democrats cried for a criminal investigation into possible violations of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgeraldappointed to find out who leaked what to whom and whensubpoenaed Miller \(who had not written \(who had written an Internet piece about Novak himself talked to Fitzgerald with no apparent conscience about source protection \(he got the story from Richard Armitage, a former deputy braggingly defends his “scoop.” In the end, Fitzgerald did not find enough evidence to charge any leaker with a criminal violation of intelligence laws. Libby got 30 months jail time for perjury and obstruction of justice that Bush swiftly commuted. And no wonder. “There is a cloud over the vice president,” Fitzgerald noted, portraying Libby as the fall guy who protected Cheney by obstructing justice. Rove narrowly escaped perjury charges whenget thisTime Inc. reporter tipped off her source-pal, Rove’s lawyer Robert Luskin, that Cooper had named him, giving Rove a last-minute chance to change his testimony. As this whopper played out in the courts and media, journalists battled 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 5, 2007