Libby Trial: The Media as Pawns or Knights?

Arianna wrote a few days ago that there are two trials going on in the Prettyman courthouse in D.C. One is designed to determine whether Scooter Libby is guilty of making false statements to federal investigators, lying to the grand jury and obstructing justice. The other is a referendum on the symbiotic relationship between prominent journalists and high ranking Administration officials.

The currency in Washington has always been information. That's nothing new. But the Libby trial has laid bare, for anyone caring enough to take a look, how the Administration used the press to present its unfounded case for war.

The directive to combat Joseph Wilson's July 6 op-ed came from Cheney himself. To get a sense of how Libby and others snapped to attention when he cried "fetch," consider the July 12th flight to Norfolk. It was on this flight, carrying Cheney, Libby and Cheney press aide Cathie Martin to the commemoration of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, that Cheney gave his directive as if he were Tony Soprano: Go after this guy Wilson. So seriously did Libby and Martin take the command that they started roto-dialing reporters from Andrews Air Force Base the moment the plane returned from Norfolk.

Whether Libby followed orders to leak Valerie Plame Wilson's employment status to convey to the public that Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger was generated by nepotism is almost beside the point. The point is more that Cheney's first response, when he thought Wilson was suggesting publicly that he was the impetus behind Wilson's trip to Niger, was to use the press as his personal attack vehicle.

The Libby defense team today called reporter after reporter as witnesses to say that although they talked to Libby during the crucial week in July, Libby did not mention Joseph Wilson's wife to them. The goal of the defense is to convince the jury he had no motive to lie. Any inaccuracies in Libby's statements and testimony were the product of a faulty memory. After all, they argue, if he was trying to discredit Wilson by outing his wife's CIA employment to suggest nepotism, why wouldn't he have told the reporters who testified today about Wilson's wife? Why only Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper? Clearly, they will argue, Miller and Cooper are mistaken in their recollections. .

Fitzgerald is wary of a defense "jury nullification" argument. He thinks the defense wants to argue that since Libby wasn't the leaker, and the real leakers, including Karl Rove, Richard Armitage and Ari Fleischer aren't being prosecuted, it would be unjust to convict Libby. But that's not what the defense is arguing. Everybody, including the jurors, knows that Libby isn't charged with being the leaker, only with being a liar.

The crux of the defense is that Libby was a busy man without a motive to lie to investigators and the grand jury. But it now appears Libby won't testify. He's going to try and get his pre-occupation with heavy national security matters in through Cheney's current National Security Advisor John Hannah. Then, he may or may not follow up with Vice President Dick Cheney. (Check out Politics TV for Jane Hamsher, Marcy Wheeler and my divergent takes on whether Cheney will testify.)

The jury has been told over and over again that Valerie Plame Wilson's actual status with the CIA is neither relevant nor an issue in the case. They also know Libby didn't leak Plame Wilson's employment status, whatever it was, to Robert Novak. They are going to be consumed with the issue of whether Libby intentionally lied.

I think Fitzgerald has an uphill battle showing Libby's motive to lie. But if neither Cheney nor Libby testify for the defense after all this talk about the July 12 Norfolk plane ride, perhaps the jury will conclude Libby was merely taking a hit for Cheney, falling on his sword. Then what will they do? Acquit or convict?

The journalists testifying today showed themselves as feasters, particularly Robert Novak, who said he talked to Karl Rove two to three times a week. They are lechers for information, Washington's ultimate currency. The question I am left with is did the journalists play the Administration officials or did the officials play them? And if they are playing each other, who's looking out for us, the press-reading public?

< Jackie Robinson's Second Season: I'm Beginning To Believe in Obama | Libby Trial: Live-Blogging at HuffPo Today >
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    Consequences of Libby's Obstruction of Justice (4.00 / 1) (#7)
    by spoonful on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 09:49:53 AM EST
    The question is, to what extent did Libby's obstruction of justice provide sufficient cover prior to the 2004 election for Cheney's masterminding of the response to Joe Wilson.  If the puiblic knew prior to November, 2004, about the White House conspiracy to expose Valerie Plame, would that have made a difference in the election that year?  If so, that would be pretty good motivation for Libby to lie as he did.      

    The Media as Pawns or Knights? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Sailor on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 12:58:58 AM EST
    Simple answers to simple questions: pawns.

    To elaborate: Sucking hind teat is not what the '4th estate' is supposed to do.

    Questioning authority is what every citizen is supposed to do. Questioning authority is what every reporter is supposed to do to represent the rest of us citizens who don't have access.

    Media Pawns (none / 0) (#2)
    by wlgriffi on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 06:14:56 AM EST
    The "media" is no more than a group of courtesans who are obsequiously more intent on seeking acceptance than seeking information.The practice of treating elected officials as royalty requiring a curtsy is  severely limiting the factual information for an informed public.

    Thanks, Sailor (none / 0) (#3)
    by dutchfox on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 06:19:17 AM EST
    Always like your comments! Spot-on!

    I've been listening to the NPR news reports on the trial. Consistently (Nina Totenberg, included) they refer to Joe Wilson perfunctorily being married to Valerie Plame, but additionally, they forget to name him as a former Ambassador and refer to him as an 'Administration critic.' Truth be told, his op-ed piece was whistleblowing, and he caught the Bush/Cheney faction in a downright lie.


    Russert and the shills (none / 0) (#4)
    by plunger on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 06:22:59 AM EST
    There's a formula that is understood by Russert and his guests.  Russert asks the tough, piercing question, the guest, using their finest obfuscation, dance around the question without ever answering it - then Russert, true to form, FAILS TO ASK THE FOLLOW-UP QUESTION REPEATEDLY UNTIL THE ANSWER IS PROVIDED.

    That is the nature of not only Russert's show, but ALL Mainstream "journalism."

    That's the entire game being played - all of it orchestrated from on-high by David Rockefeller.

    The "Appearance" of news reporters.  That's all we have.  No investigation, no follow-up questions - no actual truth.

    Hey Tim...it's goes like this:

    "Answer the question."
    "That's fine - but now answer my question."

    When you ask a question, listen for the answer.  When they fail to answer your question, ask it again.  And again.

    Journalism 101.
    Unless you're JUST A SHILL.

    Media ownership study ordered destroyed
    Sept 14, 2006
    'Every last piece' destroyed

    Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, said senior managers at the agency ordered that "every last piece" of the report be destroyed. "The whole project was just stopped - end of discussion," he said. Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC's Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said.

    "You can't tell any more the difference between what's propaganda and what's news."

    FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein
    15 August, 2006

    "We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false."

    -- William Casey, CIA Director (from first staff meeting, 1981)

    There is no "Bin Laden"
    There is no "AlQaeda"
    Iran has no nukes.
    You = Piano

    Who's Who (none / 0) (#5)
    by ding7777 on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 06:57:10 AM EST
    I don't believe Novak found Plame's name in Who's Who -  but assuming he did - has Novak ever explaimed how he deduced correctly that it was her maiden name that she would be using within the CIA?  Do all married CIA agents use their maiden name?

    Why not Mrs. Wilson? (none / 0) (#6)
    by MiddleOfTheRoad on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 09:14:25 AM EST
    Why was naming the wife even important?  He could have simply said that she was sent by the wife.  Or by Mrs Wilson.  Or Valerie Wilson.  Or Valerie P. Wilson.

    Especially after he was warned by Harlow - why was putting the wife's name there important?


    Thanks for your commentary (none / 0) (#8)
    by janinsanfran on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 10:03:24 AM EST
    So many of us think Libby is prima facie guilty for working for Cheney that we need a smart defense lawyer's perspective on this circus to keep a sense of perspective.

    Slightly off topic (none / 0) (#9)
    by HeadScratcher on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 11:46:16 AM EST
    But does British Intelligence still stand by their assesment that Iraqi's were trying to purchase uranium (yellow cake) from Niger?

    I know about the forgeries and such, but I don't recall ever hearing Blair or any British official repudiate the claim.

    I have always had a hard time reconciling the fact that the British believed the claim, and that Hilary accepted it as well. Her husband was president and had access to similar intelligence and she supported the WMD argument.