Thursday, February 12, 2004

The More Important Issue

Revisiting things that the press should have covered 4 years ago is fun, but this really is much more important:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 — It started almost casually last fall, with F.B.I. agents leaving business cards under doors around the White House, politely calling for appointments and even meeting some officials, without any lawyers present, over a few beers at a nearby bar.

But the investigation into who at the White House leaked the name of an undercover C.I.A. officer has become much more intense in the last few weeks. Some administration officials have been summoned for confrontational interviews. Current and former members of the White House's communications and foreign policy teams have hired lawyers. At least a handful of White House aides have had to appear before a federal grand jury.

At the White House, the topic is rarely discussed openly among those who have already been drawn into the investigation and those who think they may be, people who have been questioned in the case said. The result, they said, is an information vacuum that is being filled to some extent by fear of what current or former colleagues may be telling investigators.


So although White House officials have publicly pledged to help investigators, there is some resistance just beneath the surface. Some people who have spoken with investigators say they have refused to sign statements that would waive any promise of confidentiality they received from reporters. The effort to obtain the statements is apparently intended to deprive journalists who wrote about the leak an ability, if questioned or subpoenaed, to cite the need to protect anonymous sources.

Some people questioned in the case say they have also declined to sign agreements that they will not disclose any information about their encounters with investigators.

At a White House that has largely avoided scandal — and one that has been distinguished by remarkable internal cohesion — the escalating investigation has brought unusual personal stress and the uncertainties that afflict anyone caught up in a full-scale criminal inquiry.

Some White House officials, concerned about what the investigation might mean for themselves or their bosses, have been pumping reporters for information about what they know. Others, so far untouched by the investigation, are sighing with relief.

It's interesting. This article pulls the curtain away a little bit - admitting that the information flow between journalists and those they cover is a two way street.