Sunday, July 17, 2005

Plame Game: Cooper tells his side of the story

Matthew Cooper, the Time reporter, who broke his vow to his source and testified to a federal grand jury, this morning also broke his long silence to the public. His magazine ran a cover story on Rove, and Cooper contributed a first person account for Time of his adventure before the federal grand jury. Then he appeared on Meet the Press. Even among those who might support his decision, there can no denying that he has exploited this moment of notoriety for all its worth. But whether one agrees with his decision to testify or not, it is extraordinary to see the Washington media elite give Cooper a pass as to the veracity as to how he came to his decision to identify his sources.

The evidence is clear that Cooper has dissembled and spun his story as to how he came to the point of testifying to the grand jury. On the very day that Cooper was to be held in contempt and sent to jail, he dramatically informed the federal judge about to sentence him, and later a throng of reporters awaiting him outside the courthouse, that only moments earlier he had received a dramatic phone call from his source providing him "an express personal release" to testify.

That source, as we know now, was Karl Rove. But as we also now know, and Cooper later admitted, Rove never actually personally called him that morning. Rather, Cooper's attorney, Richard A. Sauber, called Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, and asked permission from Rove for Cooper to testify. Luskin pointed out that Rove had a year earlier signed a blanket waiver in lieu of a request by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, both Luskin and Sauber now say. Luskin pointedly declined to provide a more specific waiver, only saying that the former one still stood.

Of course, by the time of that telephone conversation, Time magazine had already provided Cooper's emails and notes to prosecutors. And for good measure, someone conveniently leaked Cooper's emails regarding Rove to Newsweek reporter Mike Isikoff. Cooper's sources, by then, of whom Rove was the most important, had already been identified-- not only to the prosecutors, but to the entire world.

Cooper asserted on the courtroom steps on the day of his grand jury testimony, even after all that, he was still willing to go to jail: "[E]ven when Time Incorporated over my objections, handed my notes, my emails to the grand jury, when some of those materials began to leak into the public domain revealing the source, many people.. urged me to testify. They said there was absolutely no confidentiality left to protect."

"Once a journalist makes the commitment of confidentiality, to a source, only the source can end the commitment," Cooper bravely said. He was still willing to go to jail that very morning, saying goodbye to his wife and six year old son, when he learned of his source's dramatic reversal.

The only problem was that the story of the dramatic conversation with Rove and his new waiver was not true.

How convenient how everything has worked out in the end for Cooper: It was his employer, not him, who turned over notes-- and "over his objections". (Of course, Cooper did not resign his job in protest, or even publicly denounce his employer. With a nod and a wink, Cooper even went so far as to call Time's decision "honorable"-- proving once again that being a good corporate citizen is more important to a career in the media than the First amendment.) And after Time provided his notes and emails to the grand jury, what little else there was to discern from his confidential notes was the leaked to his former colleagues at Newsweek.

And then, of course, Cooper received in "dramatic fashion" the phone call from his source the morning of his contempt hearing providing him with the new and "express personal release from my source."

We now know that Cooper's account of the dramatic phone call has turned out not to be true at all.

The issue as to whether Time's and Cooper's capitulation to the prosecutor was right or wrong, there used to be a time when it was considered wrong for a journalist to lie to the public. Apparently no longer.

No comments: