Nowhere is the value of the Web more evident than in the case of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by the Bush administration. Bloggers stepped in after the daily press had abrogated its responsibility from the beginning–first by accepting Bush’s lies, then by delivering the political poison served by his operatives, and finally by not recognizing that they were half the story. So it has been left to blogs to dig out the layers of truth behind the tale. In this case, no one has done it better than Joshua Micah Marshall, an accomplished magazine writer who produces a blog called Talking Points Memo (www.talkingpointsmemo.com).
To review: In February 2002, U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson goes to Niger to investigate whether Saddam Hussein has tried to buy yellowcake uranium capable of producing nuclear weapons. He comes back with a definitive no. But the president still uses the accusation as part of his propaganda campaign to build support for the war. So on July 6, 2003, Wilson publishes an op-ed column in The New York Times accusing the administration of “exaggerat[ing] the Iraqi threat.” Two days later, columnist Robert Novak talks to Karl Rove; five days later, Rove tells Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper that Wilson’s wife is a spy; and six days later, Novak writes a column in which he reveals that “Plame is an agency operative.” It’s illegal to reveal the identity of an undercover agent, but John Ashcroft’s Justice Department doesn’t open an investigation until 12 days after Novak’s column is published.
Since then, one reporter–Judith Miller of the Times–has gone to jail for refusing to tell a grand jury her source, and another–Cooper–revealed the source after losing a final appeal. And his source was: Karl Rove.
Where is the outrage? The dailies have covered it, but few are hammering it hard.
Enter the blogs. On Talking Points Memo there are filings showing a remarkably transparent kind of reporting–links to stories, submissions from former foreign service officers, letters from the CIA, a 12-hour gap, the complicity of a GOP member of the Senate’s intelligence committee, and references to players in other Bush dramas, names like John Bolton and Jeff Gannon. It’s a remarkable quilt, stitched together by Marshall’s cryptic commentary. What emerges is a picture of the urgent campaign within the White House to discredit Wilson after he went public and the current scramble over the Plame leak. With Marshall’s deft hand, it is presented not as conspiracy but as the way an administration works. And that’s the part that should really make you mad.