Blackout: The Media and the Nuclear Spying Cover-up

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by James Corbett
October 15, 2013

In June 2003, then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller learned Valerie Plame’s name along with journalists like Robert Novak and Bob Woodward. From July 2005 to October 2005, Miller spent 85 days in jail for not revealing her sources on Plame to Patrick Fitzgerald’s grand jury investigation into the Plame affair. This was a surprising turn of events for a reporter who had so recently been raked over the coals for her fraudulent reporting in the lead-up to the Iraq War. Suddenly, Miller went from the disgraced WMD reporter to the hero of the journalistic world.

With her imprisonment in the Plame investigation, Miller’s place in the annals of American journalism was assured. This despite the fact that she had never even written a story about Plame or her CIA status.

But as we have seen in recent weeks in this special investigative series on the Plame affair (PART I PART II PART III), the entire point about whether or not Lewis “Scooter” Libby told Miller or Robert Novak or Bob Woodward or anyone else about Plame’s work for the CIA was completely beside the point. As we now know, Plame’s cover as a WMD operative at Brewster Jennings & Associates was in fact blown 2 years before the so-called “Plamegate” affair even occurred when the State Department’s third highest-ranked official, Marc Grossman, tipped off his Turkish contacts about the company’s true nature as a CIA front.

Although every aspect of Miller’s imprisonment is strange, by far the strangest is Miller’s continuing refusal to speak out about the real Plame scandal, and that the entire Fitzgerald investigation, including her time in jail, was based on a complete sham. Recently, Washington-based investigative journalist Barbara Hollingsworth had the chance to ask Judith Miller directly about this aspect of her story, but Miller’s response was surprisingly evasive.

But perhaps Miller’s response was not so surprising after all. Her journalistic career, completely scuttled just months before by blistering condemnation of her Iraq war reporting, was suddenly rejuvenated, and her willingness to go to jail over the sham became the very symbol of journalistic integrity.

Miller’s experience, however, only represents one aspect of the media’s role in covering up the real Plamegate scandal. In fact, various journalists have known for years about Marc Grossman’s role in allegedly blowing Brewster Jennings’ CIA links in 2001, but that story has been systematically suppressed in the media.

The most thorough investigation into the story to date was conducted by a team of investigative reporters at The Sunday Times. Sibel Edmonds, after spending years unsuccessfully attempting to get her revelations about Grossman and the other players in the Turkish espionage ring reported in the US, ultimately turned to the London-based Times to have her story told. The Times began a projected four-part investigative series on the matter, speaking to several Pentagon officials and at least one FBI official familiar with Edmonds’ case, all of whom were able to corroborate various details of Edmonds’ testimony.

Amongst other revelations, that investigation caught the FBI in a brazen lie when they denied that the actual document containing the information on Grossman’s alleged crime—identified by FBI internal case number by Edmonds—even existed. The Times was able to source another document signed off on by an FBI official confirming the document’s existence, and the FBI was subsequently forced to admit that the file was in fact in their records.

But that series was unexpectedly dropped halfway through, before all of the investigation’s findings could be reported. According to Nafeez Ahmed, who wrote a story about the scuttled Times report in Ceasefire Magazine earlier this year, one of the reporters working on that story had confirmed the unusual way in which the story was suddenly dropped, and the possible pressure on the newspaper that had forced it to stop its investigation.

“The way the story was dropped was unusual, but the belief amongst my colleagues this happened under political pressure is plausible,” Ahmed quotes the Times reporter as saying. This pressure, Ahmed reports, may have been linked to an “editorial mechanism, linked to the paper but not formally part of it, which could however exert control on stories when necessary, linked to certain interests.” When asked which interests, the Times journalist reportedly told Ahmed, “I can’t say. I can’t talk about that.”

Beyond that, very few outlets have ever bothered to look into the Plame case, the allegations made by Edmonds, or the reason that an entire grand jury investigation was launched into the source of the Plame leaks that specifically avoided any attempt to expose who was behind the Plame leak. One of the only outlets that is covering the case these days is Illinois Pay to Play, a blog edited by Ernie Souchak that concentrates on corruption in Illinois government, including the former office of Plamegate Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

The Plamegate affair was fundamentally a media scandal. After all, it was Robert Novak’s 2003 column that kicked the scandal off in the first place, and the jailing of reporter Judith Miller for her part in the affair remains one of the enduring legacies of that investigation. But perhaps the greatest mystery of all, and one that is studiously avoided by that same mainstream media that has covered up the Grossman scandal, is why Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson themselves have never talked about Grossman’s role in blowing Plame’s cover. This is the subject of next week’s report…


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