Friday, April 28, 2006

Rush Limbaugh turns himself in to the authorities. The former head of the Food and Drug Administraton is under criminal investigation. Meanwhile, the FBI had begun investigating contracting fraud under the administration of Missouri Governor Matt Blunt. As many as a half dozen members of Congress may have become embroiled in a prostitution scandal. It feels like a minor crime way is underway. Looks like, John Amato is probably not going to be getting much sleep tonight.
Censorship at the CIA: Steve Afergood. Shaun Waterman at UPI. Shane Harris at National Journal. And David Kaplan of U.S. News posted this too-little noticed story online all the way back in October. (Was that short enough a post, Atrios?)

And finally, Eric Alterman sees it all as part of a larger picture.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Exclusive Fitzgerald Interview.... (post updated twice)

Exclusive Fitzgerald Interview!... er, unfortunately not with me. And, morevoer, well, not with the New York Times or Washington Post either.

The exclusive was scored by one Joseph Santo, a senior at Regis High School, a Jesuit college-prep high school on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. Via Dan Froomkin, Santo scored the exclusive interview in part because Fitzgerald is an alumni of the school. High school kid beats the national press! Timely story, too, with Rove before the grand jury today and all.

Alas, Santo, however, wasn't able to get Fitzgerald to spill the beans on the Plame probe. Not the kid's fault: Fitzgerald is inscrutable even for more experienced journalists such as--er, myself. (What is a blog for except to talk about yourself?)

And Fitzgerald shows once again he is adept--even when he speaks--at not saying much of anything at all. He told Santo: "Every day is new and every day is interesting. I love being a prosecutor; it's a great job, and it's very engaging."

Update, 4:21 P.M. Even though I myself have never scored an interview with Patrick J. Fitzgerald, I will be getting an interview with the kid (my competition) who broke the big story. Haven't talked to him yet. But the principal and president of his school said that J.R. has to do it, and having once been in high school myself (a public school, albeit not a jesuit school, but still knowing the fear of being called to the principal's office...), I know what that is like.

Some background on the school: Father Philip Judge, the President of Regis, told me (or is telling me... I am blogging as I interview him, what a medium blogging is!) that Regis is an all scholarship Catholic boys school, founded in 1914.

Father Judge actually knew Patrick Fitzgerald slightly; who was two years ahead of him in school. Fitzgerald was-- no surprise here-- on the debate team. Father Judge was on the speech team. Among other things, the school, Judge pointed out, won its 17th State Speech championish this year: "Our kids are kinda geeks," he said, "Not very good at sports, but good at things like speech and debate."

Second Update, 8:48 P.M: As it turns out, this school has graduated some very distinguished journalists, among them Pete Hamill and Mark Mazzetti, who just left the Los Angeles Times to cover intelligence for the New York Times. In addition, a recent graduate of Regis, a Harvard student, was one of the reporters for the Harvard Crimson who has broken the story of the alleged plagiarism of Harvard student novelist Kaavya Viswanathan.

All right, enough about this. Back to my own reporting. Plus if he we give this kid too much attention and positive re-inforcement for his story, he might choose journalism for a career instead of something... more admirable like say medicine or law... or for that matter just about any other profession undertaking.

Hey, Josh Gerstein [he works for the New York Sun, and has broken some very good stories on the CIA leak probe, including scooping me a couple of times] you got beat on this story dude!
Rove to testify later today before the federal grand jury. It will mark his fifth appearance before two federal grand juries that have probed the leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA officer.

Update, 3:51 P.M. The Times has a more detailed account of Rove's grand jury appearance, by Anne E. Kornblut.

Second Update, 10:45 P.M. Video here.
Fitzgerald before the federal grand jury this morning for the second known time since last year's indictment of Scooter Libby.

Last night, I also posted a new story for my day job at the National Journal, raising questions about whether there is a double standard for investigations of leaks and other disclsoures of sensitive intelligence informaton.

Is the CIA's case against Mary O. McCarthy not as strong as they and the media first seemed to indicate? A story buried way inside the NYT on Page 17 appears to say as much:

The Central Intelligence Agency on Tuesday defended the firing of Mary O. McCarthy, the veteran officer who was dismissed last week, and challenged her lawyer's own statements that Ms. McCarthy never provided information to the news media.

But intelligence officials would not say whether they believed that Ms. McCarthy had been a source for a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles in the Washington Post about secret C.I.A. detention centers abroad. Media accounts have linked Ms. McCarthy's firing to the articles, but the C.I.A. has never explicitly drawn such a connection.

In response to questions Tuesday, the intelligence officials declined to say whether discussion of the prisons has been part of what they described as a a pattern of unauthorized contacts between Ms. McCarthy and reporters.

One intelligence officials, who was granted anonymity to speak more candidly about the sensitive issue, said it was unclear how much access Ms. McCarthy, who was assigned to the agency's inspector general's office, had to specific details about the secret prison.
Read the rest of the Times story here.

Two quick points: If accurate, the Times account and others that have appeared since the inital stories about McCarthy suggest that there is little if any evidence that she leaked classified information to the Washington Post and other news organizations because she simply did not have access to the information. And second, despite some press accounts, that the CIA was not even making that claim in the first place. (Howie Kurtz also did an online column a couple of days ago asking whether the press rushed to judgement.)

The Times account also noted that some "media accounts have linked Ms. McCarthy's firing" to the Post's story on the covert prisons. I wish the Times named them, but in the absence of that being the case, I hope that some media critic or blogger would do so. (As an incentive to anyone contemplating writing such a post or column, this blog will link to you-- and perhaps more than one of my five to seven readers, er, unique visitors will read your site

Another point... (what is a blog for except to go on and on, after all?) my National Journal story discloses that Mary McCarthy was often authorized and designated to speak to the media. That does not mean that she also had unauthorized contacts or perhaps leaked classified information, but there might have been a context to her inadvertently gong too far in conversations with press contacts encouraged by her bosses.

Finally, of course, there is the hypocrisy factor.

And this! This blog gets some attention!