I'm live-blogging a lecture by Floyd Abrams at Columbia Journalism School - because I can't believe what he's saying, in the process of supposedly discussing the constitutional right to protect confidential sources.
Abrams is a giant of First Amendment law, and I'd looked forward to meeting him from the moment I was admitted to the school's class of 2005 - even though I felt he was being manipulated by an Administration operative (go google "Judith Miller" + "White House Iraq Group").
But his explication of the Miller case included an explanation of the Plame leak, and said "It appears, as events unfold, that she was not actually an undercover operative." Now, I'm not a CIA expert, but much of the discussion since has, at the very least, questioned anyone's right to make that judgment and throw out a name like that.
It's come up in the new, heartbreaking if unsurprising Woodward developments. As Jane nimbly points out:
Woodward isn't just reluctant to criticize the Administration -- he's become the water carrier of choice. Schanberg doesn't report the big, fat whopping lie that Woodward went on to tell in that interview, that he had seen the CIA damage report done on the Plame leak:
They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that Joe Wilson's wife was outed. And turned out it was quite minimal damage. They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn't have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone and there was just some embarrassment.
Two days later, the WaPo ran a story saying that no such CIA report was ever done. I guess that was the official answer as to what Woodward's "news room colleagues" thought of his put-down of their efforts.
Larry Johnson went further:
I have spoken to some people who are in a position to know. There has been damage. My source, however, declined to share classified information.
In any event, I was still absorbing Abrams' statement when he threw out, in a semi-contemptuous tone: "The mention of her name does not appear to have been motivated by a desire to hurt Wilson. It was more descriptive - This is whi he is, and his wife is with the CIA."
More descriptive. This was Libby, after all, who wrote Miller about the aspens.
In raising the absolutely essential issurs around First Amendment protection, Abrams let himself get rolled into Miller's own version of her conversations with her WHIG buddies.
As the discussion went on, it emerged that Abrams is far more involved in this question, of Plame's undercover status, than I realizdd. “One of the briefs submitted on our behalf argues that she was not undercover,” he says. By whom? Whosed motivation? Why is that key to Miller's need to protect a source?
Abrams then went on to sound NOT like a lawyer, but like a Fox commentator - who neither knows what prosecutions need to do to indict, or even pays attention to what someone says.
“It sounds, by the lack of an indictment, like he reached a conclusion that there was no violation" of laws against outing a CIA agent. Was he not paying attention when Fitzgerald was talking? Just as no one during Watergate was indicted for trying to destroy all political appointments, these perjury charges may be all we can get in chasing the giant rat.
In closing, Abrams said, 'The Libby case is turning out to be a journalist's nightmare. Putting reporters on the stand, and asking them to testify against their sources: that's monumental." I agree with him a-- but it's a nightmare these people, by playing along with Rove et al, may have created for all of us.