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So Why is Novak not in Trouble?

The United States Supreme Court this morning declined to hear the appeal of two reporters who are protecting their sources in the Valerie Plame case. Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time were recipients of information in 2003 that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent. Unlike Robert Novak, these reporters did not go public with the information, presumably to protect Ms. Plame’s cover, but because they are refusing to reveal the identity of their informant they may face jail time.

"I am extremely disappointed," Ms. Miller said in a statement. "Journalists simply cannot do their jobs without being able to commit to sources that they won't be identified. Such protection is critical to the free flow of information in a democracy."
What boggles the mind, though, is that these two reporters who are playing by all the rules, both protecting their sources and protecting - at the time - the identity of the undercover CIA agent, are the ones in trouble, while Robert Novak who went public with the Valerie Plame story, endangering the agent and blowing her cover, is not charged with any crime. Also from the NY Times story:
The case against the reporters arose from the publication of the identity of Ms. Plame's identity by the syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who said "two senior administration officials" had told him the information. It can be a crime for government officials to disclose such facts.

Even as Ms. Miller and Mr. Cooper prepare for jail, Mr. Novak remains free. Neither he nor Mr. Fitzgerald [the prosecutor] will say why that is so.

Many political observers have speculated that the leak to Novak, Miller, Cooper, and perhaps others was political payback by the Bush administration for embarrassing revelations made by Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, publically discrediting Bush's claims that Iraq was seeking to purchase yellowcake uranium from the West African country of Niger for nuclear arms development. One helpful timeline is here. The cynical view is that Novak has avoided prosecution because he played along in the payback scheme designed to silence others who might come forward with embarrassing information with the implied threat that "your family may not be safe" if you talk as Wilson did.

I can't claim to know the truth here, and since Miller and Cooper would walk free if they revealed their sources, it begs the question of who those sources are and why a prosecution beholden to the administration would be willing to pressure their being identified if their identity would embarrass the administration. Conspiracy theorists of all types can spin it all sorts of ways, but it still strikes me as outrageous that the most obviously culpable journalist in the matter, Robert Novak, remains unindicted. What gives?

Posted by Walker Willingham at June 27, 2005 1:50 PM