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July 5, 2005, 4:00 P.M.

The Power of the (official) Press: In September of 2003 I wrote about the discomfort of President Bush’s Press Secretary Scott McClellan at being forced by the White House to deny that “Senior White House officials” had anything to do with the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. McClellan was so uncomfortable because, prior to the briefing in question, McClellan was doing his best to know nothing about the topic.

The whole mess got started when someone rumored to be a senior White House official picked up the phone and called someone in the press to leak the fact that Plame was a CIA operative. The White House was, at that time, still obsessed with creating the illusion of a link between the regime of Saddam Hussein and WMDs. Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was sent to Niger to investigate claims regarding the purchase of uranium and reported that the clams were not credible. Despite the results of the Wilson investigation, Bush cited the uranium-from-Africa claim in the infamous “16 words” of his state of the union speech where he claimed that the uranium purchase supported the allegations that Saddam had a WMD program.

Karl Rove has long been rumored to be the senior White House Official who leaked Plame’’s name. For his part, Rove has never actually denied leaking the name. It now appears that there may be proof that he did in fact leak the name. Leaking the name of undercover CIA operatives is a serious crime, and those who do it are supposed to go to prison. In the words of George Bush’’s father, who was the head of the CIA before he became president, at the dedication of the CIA headquarters that bears his name, “I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors.” It remains to be seen if the rules will get bent in Karl’s case. Of course, Ambassador Wilson would love nothing more than to see Rove pay for the damage done to Ms Plame and the serious danger that she was exposed to. He has waited a long time but Wilson may just get to see Rove frog marched out of the White House yet.

This is a real story and a true issue. I have been reading and writing about Karl Rove and his style of politics for several years now and it amazes me how the same press that doggedly pursued Nixon during Watergate is almost powerless to focus our attention on the goings on in the current White House. Karl Rove and other neocons saw their WMD cover for the Iraq invasion evaporating, and they wanted to punish someone for that. Wilson was a perfect target, they wanted him punished, and they committed a felony to do it. Why does that story not have legs? Stories like this just do not seem to have the effect that they used to, and it’s not by chance.

For years we have been hearing about the supposed “liberal bias” in the media. The backlash started out as the development of a strong conservative media market. That market has, however, become an arm of a larger state propaganda machine being constructed by the Bush White House. This trend neither suits nor serves the true press whether they view life from the left or the right.

The trend really started with those little subliminal message backdrops we started seeing behind the President every time his spoke, and it evolved into fake videos supporting government initiatives and the likes of Armstrong Williams being covertly paid to promote administration policies. The most recent development surrounds the hiring of Fred Mann, for the sum of about $14,170.00 to “monitor” the Bill Moyers’ program Now. Upon further investigation, it turns out that not only was Mann hired to track and report on Moyers, he also “monitored’’ the programs of Diane Rehm and Tavis Smiley. The contract with Mann was, it turns out, approved and signed by Kenneth Tomlinson, friend of Karl Rove and Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. When he was originally asked about the Mann contract by a member of the Senate, Byron Dorgan, Tomlinson lied and said that it had been approved and signed by another CPB executive.

So what’’s the big deal about the monitoring, and what does this have to do with the independent press? It turns out that Mann gave his notes from the monitoring to Senator Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, who called Mann and demanded to see the product of the monitoring. Dorgan and members of the press had discovered the line item for the 14k in the CPB budget, and wondered why CPB was paying someone in Indiana to monitor its own programs. It turns out that the programs were rated either L for liberal, C for conservative or “anti-administration” for any segment that was critical of or raised questions about the Bush presidency. With the current flap about funding for public broadcasting, this surely looks like the start of a blacklist, and at a minimum, it does nothing to encourage a free and uninhibited flow of ideas.

Conditions at CPB are not looking to improve under its new president either. The new skipper is none other than former assistant Secretary of State Patricia Harrison who publicly praised the propaganda films produced at the State Department promoting success in Iraq and Afghanistan as “ good news” segments. These are the same fake news videos that ended up being broadcast as real news on a Fox affiliate in Tennessee. Tomlinson and now Harrison have put forward an agenda that they claim is aimed at stamping out the purported liberal bias in public broadcasting. When what they are really doing is pushing a conservative bias and a Bush agenda and they are spreading public money quite liberally in order to do it in a propaganda effort the would make Goebles proud.

Deep Throat said, “follow the money.” The result was the unraveling of a vast criminal conspiracy. I hope that there is enough of an independent media left to follow stories like the Plame leak to the end, and to follow the money this time around. Like, for example, the $10,000.00 that found its way into the hands of Brian Darling, the GOP operative who wrote the memo instructing Republicans to milk the Terry Schiavo situation as “a great political issue.” In the shadow of the Patriot Act, the Rove/Bush propaganda machine has operated with impunity. Let’s just hope that where the money ends, the “frog marching” begins.

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