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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The Times still seems to be swimming on the edges of the Plame-Fitzgerald story. But Wednesday's piece introduces two tangible new details. No action from Fitzgerald this week. And Fitzgerald does not plan to issue a report of any kind.

As the Times reporters suggest, that leaves Fitzgerald with the options of indicting someone or simply closing up shop without telling anyone what happened. And that second possibility seems hard to imagine.

Still, we don't know what Fitzgerald's going to do.

A question about the story beneath the story, the origins of the Niger forgeries and who covered up the trail.

The FBI was tasked with investigating the origins of the forgeries, who forged them and why. That was in March, 2003, soon after the IAEA publicly revealed the documents as forgeries.

But no real investigation ever took place. When reports of FBI footdragging became public a year ago, the Bureau begged off with feeble excuses about not having received permission from the Italian government to interview the key player in the mystery.

A case like that doesn't go uninvestigated by itself. Why did it? Who slowed it down? And which senators were getting briefed on the progress of the investigation over the course of 2003 and 2004?

For more than a year we've been asking the following question, as have many others. After Sunday's revelations it became an even greater mystery. After the original fiasco of her WMD reporting and her on-going role in the Plame story, how did Judith Miller end up covering the UN 'oil-for-food' scandal for a year?

Recall that Times Executive Editor Bill Keller told his reporters that in the late summer of 2003 he ordered Miller off the Iraq and non-conventional weapons beats. But he either couldn't or wouldn't control her. "She kept kind of drifting on her own back into the national security realm," he told the paper.

This greatly understates what happened.

A year after Keller's order, as questions about Miller's reporting mounted and her tangle with the Fitzgerald investigation deepened, she was back covering the oil-for-food scandal for the Times. As I've written several times over the last year, that editorial decision is almost inexplicable.

The oil-for-food story was, by definition, about Iraq. So having Miller cover the case went directly against Keller's explicit instructions. But that's only the start of it. The most inflammatory accusations in the scandal, the ones that brought it to global prominence, were based entirely on documents of dubious authenticity produced by people on the payroll of Ahmed Chalabi. And Chalabi had been either the immediate or ultimate source for much of Miller's discredited WMD reporting. Beyond all these particulars, the whole struggle over the scandal became a replay by proxy of the lead-up to the war itself. Same players, same divide, many of the same issues at stake.

All told, there was scarcely any story this year or last on which Miller's credibility as a reporter was more compromised. And yet she either got the assignment or no one stood in her way when she took it on her own initiative. This is much more than drifting back into related issues.

Who made this decision or who failed to act to prevent it? If media criticism is a serious enterprise, this is a question that cries out for scrutiny.

I want to let everyone know that we're having a discussion of the always vexed question of just how we got into Iraq and why, over at TPMCafe Book Club this week.

The basis of our discussion is George Packer's new book, The Assassins' Gate. You may know Packer from his extremely well-regarded New Yorker articles reported from Iraq. George got the discussion started. Foreign Affairs managing editor, Gideon Rose, responded last night. And Todd Gitlin has just weighed in with his first post "The War Movement and the Antiwar Movement".

Come by and join in the discussion.

It just gets more and more embarrassing for them (from Bloomberg) ...

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers disavows telling a U.S. senator that she believes there's a constitutional right to privacy and that a case the high court relied on when it legalized abortion was correctly decided, the lawmaker's spokesman said in a statement.

Senator Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the statement after telling reporters that Miers, the White House counsel, had told him there was a right to privacy.

Specter's spokesman, Bill Reynolds, said Miers called the senator after reading news accounts of his comments about their conversation to say Specter had misunderstood her position about privacy or the 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut.


Piñata.

They sorta buried it, probably because they didn't feel their sourcing was strong enough to make it their lede. But the Daily News suggests Fitzgerald's got a cooperating witness inside the White House.

Like so many articles in these final days before the story is told, or at least begun, Tuesday's Post piece by VandeHei and Pincus suggests volumes but says frustratingly little.

Three points stand out.

First is the suggestion, noted several times through the piece, that Fitzgerald's investigation reaches back into Cheney's running battles with the CIA. Remember, Fitzgerald got two judges (Hogan and Tatel) to give him extraordinary latitude to pursue this case. To get that latitude he provided the appeals court with what the Times earlier called "secret evidence ... that neither the reporters nor their lawyers were allowed to see."

Agree with Fitzgerald's zealousness or not, he seems to have persuaded those judges that he was after more than lawyerly dissections of who uttered which phrase when and why in the conversation between Karl Rove and Matt Cooper. This looks like the outlines of what he told them he was after. At least it's our best hint so far.

Second point: Fitzgerald's office, for the first time I can remember, made an on-the-record statement about the conclusion of the investigation. The detail was mundane -- where the announcements would be made (in DC, not Chicago). But it's hard to figure why you say something like that unless some announcement is imminent.

Third point: look at this graf from the piece ...

The special prosecutor has personally interviewed numerous officials from the CIA, White House and State Department. In the process, he and his investigative team have talked to a number of Cheney aides, including Mary Matalin, his former strategist; Catherine Martin, his former communications adviser; and Jennifer Millerwise, his former spokeswoman. In the case of Millerwise, she talked with the prosecutor more than two years ago but never appeared before the grand jury, according to a person familiar with her situation.


This bucket of facts is dropped into the piece with no terribly clear explanation. And that's a lot of information about Jennifer Millerwise, isn't it?

She was Cheney's Press Secretary from 2001 to 2003. She then went to work on Bush-Cheney 2004. Then in January 2005 she was appointed Director of Public Affairs for the CIA. She had apparently also worked for then-incoming CIA-Director Porter Goss on Capitol Hill. And her installation appears to have been part of Goss's effort to install Republican operatives in key positions at the Agency. Douglas Jehl, in the Times last January, called her appointment "the latest in a series of former Republican aides to be installed by Mr. Goss in senior positions at the C.I.A."

What it means I do not know. But, in articles like these, threads like those are usually meant to be pulled.

More on the Veep's office, Wilson, Plame and the CIA, soon out from the Post.

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