Water Man Spouts

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Amendment 1 Blues .....

{1} Introduction

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Six months ago, the pressure that Patrick Fitzgerald was placing upon journalists Matt Cooper and Judith Miller caused many people to question if his federal grand jury's investigation of the Plame "leak" posed a threat to the First Amendment. This was true for people as diverse as Bob Woodward, the journalist famous for keeping the identity of "Deep Throat" secret for over thirty years, to journalists who participate on the Democratic Underground. Judith Miller went to jail rather than testify after the U.S. Supreme Court denied her appeal that was based on the First Amendment. A number of nationally known, and respected, journalists proclaimed Judith a hero.

What a difference a few months makes.

The unhealthy relationship between Judith Miller and Lewis Libby, which was revealed when Scooter agreed that Judith should testify about their conversations regarding Valerie Plame, thus effectively rolling back the stone from Miller's self-imposed tomb. Yet the days that followed did not treat Judith or Scooter well. A letter from Scooter that appeared to "coach" Judith on what her testimony should be was made public. And her co-workers from the New York Times revealed that Judith answered not to her editors, but rather to the Rumsfeld forces. It was as if Judith, like some minor saint from a television docu-drama, had fallen from grace when it was found her honor had putrefied in that tomb.

Woodward, the once-respected reporter who helped to bring down the criminal empire of Richard Nixon, has also become an embarassment to journalists. The same talking heads that grace the corporate media shows, who were once proud to serve as cheerleaders for Bob, even though he had been exposed as a lying carp during the Iran-Contra scandal by claiming to have had an intimate encounter with a government official who was lying in a coma, dying in a hospital bed, now are uncomfortable with recent developments that prove Woodward was a player in the Plame scandal.

The threat to a "free press" does not come from Fitzgerald's examination of the Plame scandal. Indeed, it is posed by those who are attempting to hide the truth from Fitzgerald.

{2} "Sullivan also disclosed that the FBI, at Johnson's request, had sent a special squad to Atlantic City for the 1964 Democratic National Convention that renominated him. .... One FBI man .... had posed as an NBC correspondent. To delegates and other newsmen, he looked like a typical television reporter laden down with electronic gear. The Clark interview summary states: 'Special agent Ben Hale had credentials as an NBC correspondent. He conducted interviews with key persons in various groups ...' .."
-- The American Police State; David Wise; 1976; pages 288-91

David Wise wrote and co-wrote several of the books that helped uncover the abuses of the media by American intelligence agencies. These included "The Politics of Lying," and "The Invisible Government," as well as the one quoted from above. He was the chief of the Washington bureau of the New York Herald Tribune.

While people often think of government abuses of the free press in strictly "Operation Mockingbird" terms, Wise documented that the abuses are far more wide-spread than many people appreciate. In the example cited, President Johnson was not having the FBI use the cover of NBC to keep track of any threat to the state. Rather, Johnson was furious that "radical" blacks from the grass-roots level had formed the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party movement. In 1964, black citizens from Mississippi who were registered as democrats, and who wanted their vote to count, were considered radical. That may sound familiar to black citizens who are registered as democrats and who expect their votes to count in Florida and Ohio today.

Johnson was particularly upset, as was J. Edgar Hoover, that Robert Kennedy was speaking almost daily to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the telephone. The Johnson administration was concerned that the MFDP might be the fuse that would set off a powder keg of support for RFK at the convention.

This fear was all that it took to get the president of the United States of America to contact the director of the FBI, and to be able to access a number of press credentials from NBC, which allowed the federal agents to keep track of the pulse of the convention, RFK, King, and the MFDP.

{3} "In 2003, the North American winners of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, known as the 'Nobel Prize for grassroots work,' were former Fox TV reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson. The two investigative reporters claim that they lost their jobs at Tampa's Fox-owned WTVT when they refused to doctor a news reportthat had displeased Monsanto. .... Akre and Wilson's report said that Monsanto had been accused of fraud in connection with information it had provided to the EPA concerning dioxin, published deceitful statements about food safety, and funded favorable studies about the product from tame scientists. The newscast also reported that Monsanto had attempted to bribe public officials in Canada."
--Crimes Against Nature; Robert Kennedy, Jr; 2004; page 180

Kennedy's book further details how Akre and Wilson were forced to make 83 changes to their award-winning report over a nine month period, because the Fox station was concerned about the lose of advertisers connected to grocery-chain and dairy industry interests. The station's lawyers were not impressed by the fact that the two reporters could document everything in their report. "The station's lawyer told us time and again, You don't get it. It doesn't matter what the facts are' ..."

The reporters were fired by the station in December of 1997. They then sued Fox, and won when the jury found Akre was fired "because she threatened to disclose to the Federal Communication Commission under oath in writing the broadcast of a false, distorted, or slanted news report that she reasonably believed would violate the prohibition against intentional fabrications or distortions of the news on television."

Kennedy reports that the story "does not have a happy ending," however. The Florida District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Fox appeal, which was supported by amicus curiae briefs from five major television networks. This ruling, Kennedy notes, "effectively declared it legal for networks to lie in news reports to please their advertisers." The Jeb Bush-appointed judge, Patricia Kelly, remanded the case to trial court, RFK wrote, to decide if the reporters were responsible for paying Fox $1.7 million in legal fees.

{4} "As with other news in the past, television's ability to deliver has been highly overrated. From the first day of the war, when CNN's Baghdad correspondents reported bombing in the city, TV delivered very little in the way of actual war footage. This was partly due to Pentagon censorship ..... Former New York Times political correspondent Richard Reeves characterized the TV industry, because of its submissive performance, as 'PNN, the Pentagon News Network'."
-- In The Absence of the Sacred; Jerry Mander; 1991; page 92

Mander's book focuses some attention on a report from Advertising Age, which noted that about 75% of commercial network time was paid for by the largest 100 corporations. This was put in the context of there being over 450,000 corporations at the time. A media that represents the interests of 100 corporations, and which is allowed to "lie in their news reports in order to please advertisers," as Kennedy noted, can hardly qualify as the "free press" advocated by the Founding Fathers.

In Kennedy's book "Crimes Against Nature," he details how in 2003, at a time environmentalists were engaged in a fight against the Cheney energy bill, it became almost impossible for him to get "airtime" on the televised news. Fox's Bill O'Reilly agreed to have Robert on, as long as he would agree not to speal about President Bush's responsibilities to the public. Fox then moved to have the segment taped, so they could edit any slip. NBC's Tom Brokaw and CNN's Aaron Brown both scheduled RFK, but then folded under pressure, and canceled his appearances. Both opted to instead substitute stories on Michael Jackson's sex life.

{5} "Two White House officials, who insisted on anonymity, said on Thursday that Hadley was not Woodward's source."
-- Reuters; report by Adam Entos; 11-18-05

Who was Bob Woodward's source on Plame? The majority of the media sources have reported that it is not President Bush, VP Cheney, Dan Bartlett, or Condi Rice. Doug Feith and Carl Ford, Jr. have said it was not them. And unidentified spokespersons have said it was not George Tenet, John McLaughlin, Colin Powell, John Bolton, or Stephan Hadley.

There have been no responses from Marc Grossman or Dick Armitage. Yet several TV networks have focused on Armitage, including showing his photo on-screen during reports on Woodward. This is not a coincidence -- it is a packaged attempt to convince the public that Armitage is deeply involved in the scandal.

Only one news source has identified who the administration source who leaked to Wodward actually is. Raw Story has quoted a source that has identified Stephen Hadley as Woodward's source. Hadley played a significant role in the infamous "16 words" that were removed from President Bush's October 2002 speech in Cincinnati, but put back in his 2003 State of the Union address.

Hadley himself has not actually denied being Woodward's source. "I've also seen press reports from White House officials saying that I am not one of his(Woodward's) sources," Hadley told reporters. "It is what it is."

It is worth noting that Raw Story was accurate in reporting previous information about Hadley's role -- including his behavior -- in previous stories on the Plame grand jury investigation. At a time when journalists, newspapers, magazines, and TV stations are being pressured to report "unidentified administration sources" that Woodward's source is not connected to VP Cheney's office, it is refreshing to see that Raw Story is reporting the truth. Their strength in doing so reminds me of the Journalist's Creed:

"I believe in the profession of journalism. I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trusty; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another's instructions or another's dividends; that advertising, news and editorial columns should alike serve the best interests of readers; that supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service."


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