Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

On Talking Points I usually dish out comment and speculation with a mix of sarcasm and jest. But some issues require more seriousness and precision. This is one of them.

As you may have heard, or may yet hear, Gary Condit's spokeswoman Marina Ein (the subject of my article which appeared today in Salon) has publicly accused me of including multiple falsehoods in my article. Particularly (and here I quote from Ein's letter to Salon), she says:

"As it is, these statements, and others attributed to me in Mr. Marshall's piece are false and destructive. Further, the premise of the piece - that I was somehow engaged in an effort to cast aspersions on Ms. Levy's character or past - is entirely false."
It is worth noting that in her letter (which I assume Salon will publish tomorrow) Ms. Ein never denies having said what I quoted her as saying. That one quote being: "What about the fact that Lisa DePaulo is working on this article for Talk magazine and it turns out Chandra Levy has a history of one-night stands?"

I understand that there will be at least a couple articles written on this mini-controversy in tomorrow's papers. So when I read them I will comment on whatever Ein or anyone else is quoted as saying.

But for now let me state the following clearly and unequivocally: I stand behind the article 100%. The quotation in question is a word-for-word quotation from Ms. Ein from an on-the-record phone interview yesterday afternoon. Anything anyone states to the contrary is untrue, period.

P.S. If you'd like to see me say the same thing on TV, I'm on O'Reilly tonight on Fox News. And then on some other Fox show -- I'm not completely sure which -- at approximately 9:30 AM EST tomorrow morning.

I wrote a piece tonight in Salon detailing how Gary Condit's press spokesman Marina Ein told me that "Chandra Levy has a history of one-night stands." Were this true, it might be relevant to police trying to figure out how she came to harm and, so forth. But let me be clear: I have good reason to believe that this is actually not true. Not that I don't know it to be true, but that I have positive reasons to believe it is false.

In any case, as I noted in the piece, this really isn't very effective PR, to put it mildly.

Certainly this isn't going to make Condit look very good. But it goes beyond that. Gary Condit's biggest problem thus far hasn't been the police, for better or worse. It's been Chandra's aggrieved and heart-broken family who've dogged his every step with an endless stream of anecdotal tidbits, morsels, and veiled accusations.

And that was before his flacks started trashing their daughter.

On another matter, this article in Tuesday's Washington Post says the Condit team has still not turned over the polygraph results they trumpeted last Friday. Chief Ramsey mentioned this on the Sunday shows. Ein told me on Monday afternoon that one portion of the test results had been sent to police on Friday and that the remainder had been sent on Monday monring. Are they really still holding on to those records? And if so, why?

Andrew Sullivan called me to task for not publishing the name of the ABC News reporter discussed in this article in Salon. I refused to do so, and explained why at some length. I guess he must have found my argument irrefutable.

No time to go into too much detail on this now, but the aspect of this story which has yet to get a lot of attention is the DC police department's general reputation for incompetence and boobery, and how much their rep, not just Gary Condit's, is on the line in how this whole situation turns out.

You may have seen the computer-enhanced pictures the police released which allegedly show what Chandra might look if she was in disguise.

It might be more accurate to say that this is how Chandra might look if someone took a picture of her and gave the photograph to a six year old with a bottle of paste and some pre-school clip-art. I mean, you don't want to be overly jocular about this, but these enhanced photos don't exactly inspire a lot of confidence in the folks heading up the investigation. If this is computer-generated, what's the computer? The Atari 400 my Dad bought me when I was like twelve?

Anyway, the point is that the DC police department has a very bad reputation, and though the current leadership, Ramsey et.al., were brought in to clean the place up, they've clearly still got a lot of work ahead of them. The local Fox affiliate just reported Friday night that a slew of officers were just taken off the beat and given desk duty because they didn't know how to load their weapons. If the mystery of Levy's disappearance is simply never solved -- or if the evidentiary trail just grows cold -- the DC police department is going to start looking a lot like the Boulder PD after the JonBenet case. And they know that.

So it's important to see all the conspicuous aggressiveness of the investigation in recent days -- like arranging for TV crews to be there when they search vacant buildings -- in this light. This doesn't mean all the searching isn't necessary, or that they shouldn't be leaning so hard on Condit, but it's just important to keep this part of the story in mind.

You start to understand after a while why Mitch Daniels -- Director of the Office of Management and Budget -- got his post in the Bush administration. He excels at the sort of macho head-butting and white boy trash talk that is apparently the coin of the realm inside the second Bush White House.

Here's Daniels yesterday on This Week denouncing the idea of the Medicare Trust fund as set forth by Senator Kent Conrad:

You know, raising four daughters has taught me a little about patience, but I'm starting to lose mine on this issue of Medicare. The point of view that the senator has expressed was described this week by various journalists as 'ridiculous, false, Orwellian, and an attempt to confuse the public, deserving of our contempt.' And let me tell you why ...
And here's Daniels explaining why giving the surplus back to the American people, as conservatives like to say, is the right thing to do. And how giving the surplus back to the American people is also the best way to protect the surplus.
First of all, let's note that the surplus is smaller very much on purpose. That's because President Bush and a bipartisan majority chose to share some of this large overcharge with the American people

The president chose ... to share a large part of the remaining surplus with the taxpayers who sent it in. It's a refund of a big overcharge ... And we now know a sputtering economy needs that money to revive and protect the surpluses of the future.

So the surplus is the people's money, and they should get it back. And that'll protect the surplus.


And here's Daniels on the finer points of tactical dishonesty ...

I think frankly that Medicare lockbox fiction, which is what it is, was of some value early on in its life during a time of deficits, when it's [Republican] authors, I think, believed they were going to prevent the then Clinton administration from spending all that money ...
Like I said, you start to understand why he got the assignment.

I've already noted some questions regarding the track record of Barry Colvert, the former FBI polygraphist who administered the lie detector test to Gary Condit. Cokie Roberts seemed to refer to those questions on This Week -- guess they're not that upset about the Salon article after all. Anyway, what's the deal with Abbe Lowell not turning over the test results of the test to the DC Police or the FBI, as he said he would last Friday?

I'll have to wait for the transcript to go over this in more detail, but Mitch Daniels' appearance today on ABC's This Week really cements his reputation as administration point-man for double-talk, deception and hyperbole. Trying to save the Medicare Trust Fund is "orwellian." (A quote he apparently agrees with.) The tax cut is the best way to preserve the surplus. Where'd they get this guy? More later.

As some of you may know, Andrew Sullivan has called me to task for not naming the ABC News reporter at the center of the article I published last Friday in Salon.com.

If you're not familiar with what I'm talking about, I'll briefly explain. If you already know the story, skip ahead by clicking here.

In the July 13th article I described how ABC News received a timeline from Gary Condit's office detailing the congressman's activities on the days surrounding Chandra Levy's disappearance. Producers at ABC knew that key facts in the timeline were wrong because parts of the timeline had to do with one of ABC's own reporters. The timeline said Condit had met with the reporter on the day of Levy's disappearance (May 1st) when in fact he had not. ABC confronted Condit's legal team only to be told that the timeline was just a work-in-progress, a rough draft, and so forth. They eventually decided to give Condit's office the benefit of the doubt - assuming that this was just an honest mistake, rather than a deliberate attempt to create a false alibi for the congressman. Further complicating the situation for ABC was the fact that the reporter has been alleged to have had a romantic relationship with Condit. (This run-down obviously omits a lot of key details. So if you want the whole story do read the whole article.)

So the question is why didn't we name the reporter? Andrew says that the media has one privacy rule for its own and another for everyone else. It's a pretty good point - and one that I was thinking myself before I even started reporting the story. Frankly, I think it's true. And this case is a pretty good example of that fact. I don't have much doubt that - given even her minor role in the case - you'd know this woman's name if she weren't a reporter for ABC News. ABC has a story to report; but it's implicated in the story on a number of levels. So they've essentially put the reporter on ice, and squelched the story. (This was the gist of my article - and thus in a sense Andrew and I aren't that far apart.)

But where do Salon and I fit in?

I found out the name of the reporter while reporting the article. And her name was confirmed to me by a source with impeccable knowledge of the situation - just not on the record. And that's the point: no one would go on the record with this woman's name.

If this were just a question of her as a reporter that might not have been a problem. But it's central to this story that there are rampant rumors about her alleged romantic involvement with Condit. And a major metropolitan daily, The New York Post, has published the allegation.

Normally, a mere allegation counts for nothing. But in this case it's different, because true or not these allegations have affected ABC's willingness to confront the story, or at least that's what I argue.

But we didn't have any confirmation that this affair allegation was true. In fact, we had a firm denial from an ABC News executive.

So the question we faced was this: do we name this woman in the context of allegations of an affair when no one will go on the record identifying her, and we have no evidence validating that the allegations of an affair are true?

Framed that way, the question doesn't seem that hard to answer.

I wouldn't publish an article alleging that two people were having an affair unless at least one of them was willing to confirm it. And I feel pretty confident saying that since I publicly criticized the Washington Post for doing so just last Friday.

Andrew says that "If ABC News is right about their reporter's relationship with Condit, this is one instance in which there are no real privacy considerations. As long as ABC News says there was no affair, then the reporter has nothing to be afraid of in disclosing her name."

But this isn't an argument so much as a logical trap, a cleverly packaged catch-22 from which the folks at ABC could never escape. I think Andrew may be right when he says that the reporter and/or ABC News have a duty to come forward with this information (that was really the point of my article, after all) but that's obviously a bone he has to pick with ABC and the reporter, not me.

Having said all this, though, there's still a problem: there really is a lot more solicitousness for this woman's privacy than there is for many others who aren't in the media. To make a point we could have cut through all the reportorial niceties noted above and simply named her. And in a sense I suppose that would have made things more fair. But this would just be a 'two wrongs don't make a right' situation or a case of (the wingers' favorite phrase) defining deviancy down.

Now there's one other point Andrew brings up that I'd like to address. He says that spilling the beans on this reporter woman is precisely what a me-zine is for. I don't agree. I've written a lot of things in these virtual pages that I probably couldn't have gotten an editor to go along with. But I think that when I write an article for a magazine and we come to some sort of agreement about how to proceed on an editorial question that I have an obligation not to do an end-run around them and take some information that we agreed not to publish and spill the beans on Talking Points. It would depend on the situation, of course. If the magazine did something really egregious I might use my site to get out some important information. But that doesn't apply here.

So as you've probably surmised by now, I'm not going to post this woman's name. In his email to me Andrew said that if I had "the balls" I'd publish the woman's name. Frankly, if this is a test of my editorial manliness, I don't think I've got much to prove - given all I've published here. And since the whole issue here is tying a man and woman together sexually in print, I'll just stand before you in the spirit of the moment, wag my finger and say: my balls have nothing to do with that woman, the un-named off-air reporter from ABC News.

Regarding the Condit lie detector test, here's some other morsels to keep in mind.

In his post tonight Mickey Kaus notes that Aldrich Ames, the notorious CIA spy, passed a number of lie detector tests. So clearly the technology is not infallible.

But this only scratches the surface of the story.

The polygraph expert retained by Condit attorney Abbe Lowell is named Barry Colvert, a former FBI lie detector expert. One of the bullet points on Colvert's resume is that he did the interrogations of Aldrich Ames. Now I don't know if the tests Ames beat were administered by Colvert. But it seems like a definite possibility. So it's not just that Ames beat a lie detector test. It may be that he beat this expert.

But there's more. A lot more.

Back in January 1998 when former Teamsters' President Ron Carey was trying to fight off an indictment and expulsion from the union over the campaign donation-swapping scandal, he decided to take a lie detector test to clear himself. He passed the test.

The test was administered by none other than Barry Colvert.

Now this is a little painful for me to say, because I always liked Ron Carey, but the bottom line is that he was eventually indicted. So Colvert's results look a little iffy in retrospect.

More striking though is the way that test was apparently administered. Read this snippet from a January 21st, 1998 AP story and see if the Carey test doesn't sound very similar to the one Abbe Lowell described Colvert administering to Gary Condit.

Barry Colvert, an agent for 35 years who interrogated Aldrich Ames and other high-profile spies, asked Carey two crucial questions about the scheme.

"I did not find any indication of deception in either of those primary questions," Colvert said. He added that, "If the readings were close and flat, I wouldn't have rendered that opinion."

Colvert's questions and the questions posed to Carey by his attorney, Reid Weingarten, were limited to charges that about $735,000 was donated by the Teamsters to generate contributions to Carey's re-election campaign.

Carey was not asked if he knew that other labor leaders, including AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka, allegedly had funneled prohibited donations to his campaign.

Sounds similar, doesn't it? Highly restricted questioning ... "two crucial questions" ... "the primary questions" etc. And apparently no follow-ups on the factual nitty-gritty of the case.

(Carey seems to be the only other high-profile case Colvert has handled since he went into private practice in 1997 -- I base this on a Nexis search on Colvert's name which revealed no mentions beside those tied to Carey.)

And then there's one more detail.

My understanding is that, at approximately this time, Carey had working for him a PR consultant by the name of Marina Ein. (I do not know whether she was still working for Carey at the time of the test in January 1998 -- but I know she was shortly before that.) And as you'll remember, if you're following the case, that's the same Marina Ein who is now working for Gary Condit.

What does this all mean? I'm going to let the information speak for itself. But it does make you wonder.