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While Looking for Leak, Hold Novak to Account

October 03, 2003

I had no problem with anything you said in "CIA Outing Snaps Back" (editorial, Sept. 30). You are right. If true, it was outrageous for the White House to out former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson's wife as a CIA agent in apparent retaliation for his anti-Bush opinion piece.

I do have a problem with what you didn't say -- that journalists are partners in leaky news. An awful lot of reporting out of Washington and other places is based on anonymous sources, highly placed officials who talk only on the condition that they not be identified. Why? Are they ashamed of their convictions? Is what they are saying simply not true and they don't want to be caught in a lie? Is the leak a cowardly attack? Is the reporter making the whole thing up?

A democracy relies on good, open, checkable information being supplied to the electorate. I understand that The Times could argue that it would miss too many good stories if it required that all sources be revealed. Yes, acting in accord with good ideals is not always easy.

Bill Stanton

Garden Grove

*

Why did Robert Novak mention Wilson's wife in his July 14 column at all? It is curious. Wilson's wife's involvement is largely irrelevant to the story. At any rate, her name is certainly irrelevant. Makes you wonder why it's there. In the column, Novak explicitly identifies Wilson's wife as a CIA operative (not merely an "analyst," as he now claims he understood her to be). Even I know that publishing the name of a CIA operative is a bad idea. Perhaps because he is a fellow pundit, Novak has been getting a free ride in the press, but his behavior was at best reckless. Novak has even admitted that the CIA asked him not to disclose the name (Sept. 30). It's time for him to stop waffling, accept responsibility for what he's done and take his lumps.

Lance Menthe

Sherman Oaks

*

Novak asked a "senior administration official" why the Bush White House sent Wilson, a Bush critic, to Africa to investigate the report that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium. The official replied that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA in the area of weapons of mass destruction and she suggested the mission.

While the administration official clearly should not have passed that information to the press, it hardly sounds like the official released this information to get back at Wilson because he reported that the reported attempt to purchase uranium was false. Yet if you read the papers, that's the spin that is given. We have enough scandal in politics without the press creating scandals where none exist.

Jeff McCombs

La Palma

*

The one bright spot in the alleged outing of a CIA undercover agent by a White House official is that several news agencies contacted by the official declined to use the information, recognizing that not only was the leak illegal, it was clearly designed to end the career of the agent and that publishing the story would be unethical. Novak was the only one sleazy enough to take the bait and break the story.

Yet the viciousness with which a Bush lieutenant sought to intimidate a critic of the president's policies by taking well-publicized retribution against a family member clearly was designed to send a strong message to others who might speak out. So much for the right of dissent.

Most stunning in its implications, however, is that apparently a senior administration official, acting out of political malice, was willing to damage the intelligence capability of the U.S. at a time when we desperately need our intelligence services to be performing at their highest levels. This from an administration that wraps itself in the flag at every opportunity.

Alan Maltun

South Pasadena

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