Searching for Valerie Plame
July 25, 2003 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Search the New York Times website for any occurrence of the words "Valerie Plame" during the last week...and you'll find nada, zilch, zip. The so-called "paper of record" has remained totally mum on what may be one of the biggest scandals of the Bush administration yet. You can read about it at Newsday, CBS, Time, and The Nation, and it's been mentioned on NBC... but not a word from the New York Times (save for a reference to it last week by syndicated columnist Paul Krugman, and a wire service story today; neither of those pieces mentions Plame by name). The Times' news and editorial divisions are asleep at the switch on this story. Maybe the Jayson Blair scandal was a distraction from the deeper problem: a paper that is so concerned with being balanced and respectable, it refuses to cover any politically controversial stories. You can e-mail to ask why the Valerie Plame news blackout. Or just click this link a few dozen times to send 'em a message.
posted by Artifice_Eternity (38 comments total)
Or maybe they just don't want to drag her name through the mud as well. In all honesty, though, that would be a nonsense pursuit as everyone else has already done so. Just more evidence of the Times ceding its eminence to the WaPa, which is now the best daily in the states.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:03 PM on July 25, 2003

Mark Gisleson at notes that the story has also been covered by the following media outlets:

Arizona Star

National Post & Canadian Press

Mother Jones

New York Press [second item]

Washington Post
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:03 PM on July 25, 2003

Well, this story pops right up on a search for "CIA operative" so it looks like the Times just isn't too keen on spreading her name around.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:03 PM on July 25, 2003

Isn't this like a triple post at this point? Pike?
posted by Outlawyr at 3:04 PM on July 25, 2003

Ignatius: the wire service story in the NYT today is about New York Senator Chuck Schumer formally asking the head of the FBI to investigate this. It's now not only a national story, but a New York story too. Still the Times' own reporters won't touch it.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:06 PM on July 25, 2003

I think I agree with you, I'm just saying that in general high expectations of the Times are no longer warranted. Forget Jason Blair. I've had jobs where I bullshitted and slipped through the cracks. Judith Miller was the turning point for me. The fact that the Times was infinitely more hardcore about Whitewater than about this obivous and admitted illegality just shouldn't even be a surprise anymore. The NYT wants to be some sort of snootier USA Today.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:11 PM on July 25, 2003

Ignatius: Well put.

I was hoping Bill Keller would be better than Howell Raines, but whatever is broken over there hasn't been fixed.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:13 PM on July 25, 2003

<tangent>As for USAToday, FWIW, they are demonstrably more liberal than the "liberal" NY Times these days.</tangent>
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:24 PM on July 25, 2003

Isn't this like a triple post at this point? Pike?

Mmm, I don't think the pike is called for. This has the potential to be a truly huge story, and the fact that it isn't (yet) calls for our attention. It is also pertinent in the context of debates about the potential of the web to revolutionize journalism, politics, etc. Not to mention the fact that many of us get a large slice of our news from the Times online.

[Disclaimer: I'm the 'double' in the triple-post charge by Outlawyr]
posted by stonerose at 3:54 PM on July 25, 2003

posted by bitdamaged at 4:34 PM on July 25, 2003

I think Artifice_Eternity is right, the NYT should be all over this, but the story has sadly been missing in too many of the nation's top dailies. Combined stories about this situation (scandal?) in the Boston Globe, Chi Tribune, Miami Herald, USA Today, and LA Times is zero.

The Wash Post, to its credit, mentioned it today. The Wash Post, to its detriment, buried the story on page A20, and gave it six paragraphs at the end of an unrelated article.

The White House press corps seemed really interested in this on Tuesday, so why have there been so few articles? I'm stumped.
posted by evening at 4:41 PM on July 25, 2003

One possible explanation is that both the Post and the Times are digging around (actual investigative reporting?!) trying to determine the identities of the administration officials who blew her cover and the ramifications thereof - basically get all the facts. Then they come out with an expose blowing the lid off the whole thing.

A guy can dream can't he?

Also, can you imagine what Novak and the rest of the right-leaning punditry would be saying right now if say, Maureen Dowd had revealed the identity of a CIA operative? Whoo boy.
posted by pitchblende at 4:54 PM on July 25, 2003

Also, can you imagine what Novak and the rest of the right-leaning punditry would be saying right now if say, Maureen Dowd had revealed the identity of a CIA operative? Whoo boy.

Now shit. People's lives were put in danger so that Cheney could try intimidate the CIA. And it's freakin' illegal to boot! At least the neocons finally picked a fight they're bound to lose.

But, unlike Guatemala in the 60's, the CIA doesn't publish our newspapers. The press needs nads now.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 4:59 PM on July 25, 2003

The bush admin was horrible for outing Valerie Plame!

The NYT was horrible for not outing Valerie Plame!!!!
posted by delmoi at 5:05 PM on July 25, 2003

This has the potential to be a huge story, or it could be a complete fizzle. It all hinges on whether Ms. Plame was in fact a CIA operative under NOC. If her CIA affiliation was not actually secret (just obscure), then there's no story. If she doesn't actually work for the CIA at all, then there's still a story, but not a big one. The MeJou thread has some interesting references, but nothing really useful for answering this question.

Perhaps the various newsmedia are trying to figure out what the situation is so they can write a story with some more actual content (I know, I'm probably giving them too much credit, but I like to be optimistic).

(On preview, what pitchblende said.)
posted by hattifattener at 5:19 PM on July 25, 2003

Interestingly, last night Ambassador Wilson was on The Daily Show last night for a couple segments, and Jon Stewart seemed to want to pull the story out of him, asking about retribution, etc, and all the ambassador would say was that he and others were looking into allegations about a family member (I don't think he even said wife), then he went on to talk about something else.

Perhaps the NYT is trying to keep pace with the Ambassador himself?

(and might I say... Ambassador Wilson was GREAT on the Daily Show. Definitely seemed like the kind of guy who wouldn't take crap from people. Jon Stewart was funny per usual, but got to be a little more "investigative." Or at least as investigative one can get on Comedy Central)
posted by tittergrrl at 5:26 PM on July 25, 2003

argh, yes, he was on last night. last night? last night!
posted by tittergrrl at 5:26 PM on July 25, 2003

The whole controversy is that the White House may have named this woman. Why do you want the paper of record to to do the same thing you're so angry with the White House for doing?
posted by raaka at 6:29 PM on July 25, 2003

Just more evidence of the Times ceding its eminence to the WaPa

What's the WaPa?

I was hoping Bill Keller would be better than Howell Raines, but whatever is broken over there hasn't been fixed.

Actually, Keller hasn't taken over yet. It's still under Lelyfeld, I believe.
posted by Tin Man at 6:36 PM on July 25, 2003

indirect queries.

Has anyone actually specified what she is alledged to do at CIA? My point being that 99% of their jobs are not "operatives", but their employer is obscured like for those who work for the IRS, out of just a general public disdain. (Coincidentally, IRS employees do feel just as threatened by disclosure as do CIA employees--it's not just paranoia. People really do hate them.)

Another point is that the CIA now routinely denies that its employees are its employees--no public statement denying her strikes me as odd.

Last but not least, whenever espionage is involved I mistrust every aspect of a story, and try to think of odd angles that might be behind it all, like "What if she is a spy, just not for the U.S.?"

And her husband's story is odd: first he's enthusiastic about going to Niger, then he's enthusiastic about sticking it to the people who sent him. Does this impress anyone else as strange?

Is the truth out there?
posted by kablam at 6:40 PM on July 25, 2003

What's the WaPa?

Yikes! WaPo!
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 6:46 PM on July 25, 2003

The whole controversy is that the White House may have named this woman. Why do you want the paper of record to to do the same thing you're so angry with the White House for doing?

Do you really need that answered? Okay: SHE'S ALREADY BEEN OUTED. The bad guys know. No more damage can be done to her by outing her 'further'. Now, it's time to find and punish the people who outed her. Accountability requires talking about the case.
posted by stonerose at 7:15 PM on July 25, 2003

It's a sign that something is all fucked-up when the spin of your supporters is a couple of steps ahead of your own. Bush/Rove's crowning genius was making certain morons believe that Hussein was behind 9/11 without even saying it. Ever since then, you guys just make up stuff for yourselves to believe. No one even has to lie to the Defenders of All Things W anymore.

(damn, i hoped that i could die without ever using that phrase)
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:06 PM on July 25, 2003

Further info:

The ambassador himself: "Served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council. Ambassador Wilson is a career member of the Foreign Service. His assignments have included Niamey, Niger; Lome, Togo; Pretoria, South Africa; Bujumbura, Burundi; Brazzaville, Congo; and the Department of State.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson served in Baghdad, Iraq as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy from 1988 to 1991."

He sounds very, very close to the administration. Puzzling.
posted by kablam at 8:38 PM on July 25, 2003

Actually, he sounds close to HW Bush's administration, which is a much different thing. It seems like he respected them enough to go to Niger, but not enough to cover for their lies.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:42 PM on July 25, 2003

God, I hope Bush goes down for this.

Jeb definitely got the smarts in that generation of Bushes
posted by shadow45 at 10:05 PM on July 25, 2003

Thanks for the excerpt, stonerose; I hadn't read that particular article. Yeah, unless Newsday's completely off track, this seems like it is in fact the criminal act it sounded like.

kablam, not so puzzling; just assume that Wilson isn't a simple Party yes-man. Put yourself in his position: you're an ambassador, a career diplomat; you have to have a much longer view than an administration's 4- or 8-year horizon. You get posted to a lot of unpleasant places: so either the pay is really good, or you believe in what you're doing, in some way or another. You get sent off to Niger to look for some critical bit of information. You find it and report back. The administration ignores your report, claims the opposite is true, and uses it to justify a new war. Wouldn't you have even the slightest urge to speak up? Wilson has no love lost for Saddam, but despite some wingnuts' beliefs, the world is not pure black and white.
posted by hattifattener at 2:17 AM on July 26, 2003

Bush is not going down. Nothing can stick to Mr. Magoo. If Reagan was covered in teflon, Bush is covered in adaptive camouflage.
posted by mecran01 at 8:09 AM on July 26, 2003

I can dream, can't I? *sniff*
posted by shadow45 at 10:07 AM on July 26, 2003

Bush is not going down. Nothing can stick to Mr. Magoo.

$20 says you're wrong. I get an exemption if there's a radioactive terrorist event in the summer of 2004, though.
posted by mediareport at 12:46 PM on July 26, 2003

David Corn, who broke the story in The Nation, has written an update here, which recaps the White House's attempts to evade the issue.
posted by stonerose at 2:40 PM on July 26, 2003

hattifattener: I think the world is just the opposite of black and white. In fact, when espionage is involved, expect John LeCarre novel complexity, but as written by Hunter S. Thompson, then edited by Christopher Hitchens and Liz Smith, reviewed by Ann Coulter, whose review is then critiqued in 'The Nation'. Summarized in a 25 second shouting match on "Crossfire."
Black and white it is not.

However, some things might be pieced together, though it's open to interpretation as to what they mean. For example, her role as an "undercover" specializing in WMDs would have been at its peak during his time as Deputy Chief of Mission in Iraq '88-'91. She would have been doing lots of study of Iraq's NBC weapons and delivery systems. Good probability that she was even a regional spymaster to field agents throughout the area, esp. Iran.

This would seem to explain why she was in the thick of things early on to investigate a possible Niger connection
(along with their family experience in Niger.)

A $64 question would be how she took to the UN inspectors. She would probably be following everything they did, at a distance. Again, what this means could be up for debate, too.

There is a deeper story here.
posted by kablam at 6:02 PM on July 26, 2003

What's the WaPa?

that was just me. pay no attention.
posted by quonsar at 7:11 PM on July 26, 2003

I don't know, the story is obviously newsworthy, it's very important, but if I were Keller I'd be very, very wary too. Raines, bless his arrogant heart, among many other things tried to turn the Times into what it had never been, a newspaper that tries to kick ass and generate buzz on certain not-very-popular stories (for example, the golf segregation thing) by aggressive coverage and aggressive editorial treatment. doing that, he turned the paper into the rightwingers bogeyman, the ffavorite object of the gleeful scorn of the people whose beloved party owns the Supreme Court, the White House and Congress but they feel under siege anyway.
I can hardly blame Keller for trying, in a post-Jayson environment, not to rock the boat, see what happens with the Wilson story, stick the finger in the wind. The paper will probably be less exciting in the future, but there's this huge credibility gap to eliminate, I cant imagine Keller trying to be aggressive like the man who had to leave paper for being too aggressive (and arrogant, and ultimately suicidal in his sad denial about Blair's obvious incompetence and bad faith)
posted by matteo at 10:23 PM on July 26, 2003

matteo: Raines crusaded on topics like the Augusta golf club, but at the same time, missed huge stories of historic import that went sailing by while he nursed his obscure obsessions. I.e., he allowed the uranium claims to go virtually unquestioned even when questions were being asked early this year. Another story he dropped the ball on: it came out in Dec. or Jan. that Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law, a defector to the west who gave us much info on WMD programs, also told the CIA, Brits and UNSCOM that all the WMDs had been destroyed in the early 90s. CIA denied, but then a transcript of Kamel's testimony to UNSCOM circulated. NY Times barely noted any of this, even tho there was a glaring problem with the fact that Bush & co. relied on Kamel's data for info on Iraq's WMD programs, but suppressed his statements about their destruction.

Also, Raines had Judith Miller covering WMDs, parroting Ahmed Chalabi's lies (the same ones the Bushies relied on). And he obsessed about Whitewater.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 6:27 PM on July 27, 2003

yellowcake, yellowcake
George's man
find me some yellowcake
as fast as you can

find it, ship it
and mark it with a "G"
and put it in the oven
for Georgie and me!


Seeming as how kindergarten tactics are being used in the Whitehouse, I thought I'd slip to their level.
posted by alicesshoe at 9:15 PM on July 27, 2003

mediareport - I'll take that bet, too. No way is Bush going down. The man could take a .44 magnum out at a press conference and blow away reporters that ask questions he doesn't like, and still the remaining FOX journo would be able to spin it in a way that makes GW look like a hero.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:06 AM on July 28, 2003

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