Monday, February 12, 2007

Ramifications of The Plame Outing.

It's going to become increasingly evident that the events surrounding the ongoing Iraqi disaster are destined to leave lasting unforeseen repercussions of great consequence to US society. I would contend that no one truly understands the scope and intensity of these effects. That would be impossible. We've been besieged with these complications since 2003, and there is no definitive end in sight. Any list of examples could only be criticized for its many omissions. Today I was particularly concerned with one issue that is forefront in the news- the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former Chief of Staff for Vice President Cheney.

Libby's attorneys have begun calling witnesses in defense of their client, in a very public attempt to excuse his role in the outing of former CIA operative Valerie Plame. For readers in need of a refresher, Plame's husband Joseph Wilson was sent to the African nation of Niger to assess the legitimacy of claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking the purchase of components to make nuclear weapons. This was an important aspect of the Bush administration's contention that Hussein was a developing threat to the security of the United States in the wake of 9-11. Wilson returned to the United States with conclusive findings that the suspected plot had no basis in fact. Cheney's office was not pleased with Wilson's public pronouncements regarding his mission, after American troops were unable to find weapons of mass destruction after the invasion of Iraq. The clear implication was that the president and executive branch were aware that they were promoting a false justification for their military operation against Iraq.

In a fit of pique, some elements within Cheney's office sought revenge by compromising Wilson's wife. This was a clear violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (1982). But Libby wasn't charged with crimes against Plame... but rather with obstruction of justice. He refused to cooperate with the investigation of Patrick Fitzgerald (the special prosecutor appointed to the case). This is an especially egregious crime, due to the high political profile of the suspected conspirators of the plot... including Richard Armitrage, presidential advisor Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney himself. Even with the unquestioning cooperation of the rightwing media echo chamber in a full press attempt to downplay the seriousness of the crime, growing public dissatisfaction with the president ensured the proper prosecution of the case.

This entire story is too complicated to understand with cursory interest. Even today, much of the public remains wholly unaware of the gravity of the situation. But there are undeniable ramifications for the future of "democracy" in this nation. Particularly compelling are the lengths members of the media went to protect their sources in reporting Plame's CIA affiliation, citing claims of professional integrity. New York Times reporter Judith Miller chose to go to jail, rather than to reveal the identity of the conspirator(s) before a federal grand jury. Of course, Miller's refusal to bring light to this case elicited ample suspicion that her journalistic credibility was compromised by her own political agenda. But the intricacies of the situation go beyond this supposition.

Certainly I understand the importance of confidential sources to the operation of a free press. If these types of protections were not in place, then the security of government whistle-blowers would be compromised. Without this confidence, the fear of reprisal would keep many of the shady dealings of our government cloaked in secrecy. But when high-placed officials in the executive department of that same federal government cynically exploit this principle in order to advance their own pernicious political aims... then the social benefit of source confidentiality is altogether undermined.

I believe the "fourth estate" has a responsibility to protect its own independence and integrity by resisting such blatant attempts at manipulation. Public officials have no right to hide behind this professional courtesy (and legal defense) in order to attack whistle-blowers- who are the very parties such confidentiality was implemented to protect. If we lose sight of that... then we are ceding the power of the press, and its crucial role in the maintenance of democracy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Wow, Wow, my man.....profound to say the least.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Thanks... um... I do what I can do.

5:50 PM  

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