On the Situation Room, Blitzer failed to challenge Jeffrey's misleading claims about CIA leak

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

On CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer allowed Human Events Online editor Terence P. Jeffrey to repeat Robert Novak's claim that the Bush administration official who originally disclosed former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to Novak "had done it inadvertently." In fact, Novak has been inconsistent about the motivations of his sources and the explanation for the inconsistency.

On the July 12 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer allowed Human Events Online editor Terence P. Jeffrey to repeat syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak's claim, made in a July 12 column, that the Bush administration official who originally disclosed former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to Novak "had done it inadvertently." In fact, Novak has been inconsistent about the motivations of his sources and the explanation for the inconsistency, telling Newsday in 2003 that his sources thought Plame's identity "was significant" and that "they gave me the name and I used it," as Media Matters for America has noted.

When asked about the inconsistency by host Tim Russert on the October 5, 2003, edition NBC's Meet the Press, Novak said his earlier statement -- that his sources regarded Plame's identity as significant -- was not "very artfully put" and insisted that there existed "no inconsistency between those two." Blitzer did not ask Jeffrey how Novak's claim that the disclosure was inadvertent squared with his initial suggestion that his sources acted deliberately, thinking Plame's identity was significant.

Moreover, as Media Matters has also noted, on the July 12 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Novak offered yet another explanation for the inconsistency, though Blitzer could not have seen that show, which was broadcast after his exchange with Jeffrey.

In addition, Blitzer did not challenge Jeffrey's assertion that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald "did not charge anyone" with leaking Plame's identity because doing so "simply was not a crime." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, when Fitzgerald announced the indictment of former vice-presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on charges of perjury and obstructing the grand jury's efforts to investigate the alleged leak of Plame's identity, Fitzgerald stated that he was unable to determine whether the alleged leak constituted a violation of the law, not that a crime had not been committed.

From the July 12 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, which also featured Democratic strategist Donna Brazile:

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about Robert Novak, the syndicated columnist, our former colleague here at CNN. He wrote a column -- it appeared in The Washington Post and other newspapers today around the country, in which he disclosed much more than he's disclosed before. But he's still not telling us who his original source was that told him -- basically gave him the tip to go hunt for [former ambassador] Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson. What did you learn from this column that you read in the Post this morning?

BRAZILE: Well, I learned that Bob may have broke his silence, but we still don't know who broke the law, who his primary source was in leaking the name of Valerie Plame. While he could find the name in the Who's Who, according to his column, he didn't know -- someone told him that she was a CIA agent.

BLITZER: Someone sounds, Terry, like someone said to him, "You know, Joe Wilson, he was on a boondoggle. He got this trip because his wife works at the CIA." And then -- but didn't mention the name of the wife. And then Bob Novak began to do what a journalist does, began to connect the dots.

JEFFREY: There's no question Bob Novak is an excellent journalist. He's proved that in a long, long career, Wolf. He said in his column, first of all, that the senior administration source who first told him about Wilson's wife had done it inadvertently. Secondly, he's said for a long time that he actually looked up her name in Who's Who. Something Donna said, I think, is incorrect. She said we don't know who committed the crime yet. The fact of the matter is, as Novak's column gives us more evidence, Patrick Fitzgerald conducted a very aggressive investigation. He knew exactly who Novak's sources were, including the original source. He did not charge that person with a crime because that person did not commit a crime. Meanwhile, Scooter Libby's crime, that he has been charged with, that he has been alleged to have committed, is perjury and obstruction of justice in a grand jury. Not leaking Valerie Plame's name.

BLITZER: And lying to FBI agents, which is a serious charge as well.

BRAZILE: A serious crime, and it's also a crime to identify and leak a name of a -- of a CIA -- a covert agent. So that is a crime. And someone -- and the president and the White House at first distanced themselves from this investigation and said no one was involved in the White House. Now we learn that Karl Rove was a secondary source of this information.

JEFFREY: Bob Novak called up Rove to try and confirm this, but the fact of the matter is Victoria Toensing, who was the counsel of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate when the [Intelligence] Agents Identity [sic] Protection Act was written, has said -- and I believe she's absolutely right -- that this law did not apply to Valerie Plame or leaking her name to a reporter. That is why Patrick Fitzgerald did not charge anyone with that crime. It simply was not a crime.

BLITZER: Here is what the president said on September 30, 2003, shortly after all of this erupted. Listen to what he said.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Intelligence
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Wolf Blitzer
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
CIA Leak Investigation
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.