DATE August 2, 2005 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Anne Marie Squeo and Adam Liptak discuss the case
involving leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
My guests are two reporters who have been covering the story of the leak that
Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was a CIA undercover operative.
The leak is being investigated by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and a
grand jury. My guests are Adam Liptak, national legal correspondent for The
New York Times, and Anne Marie Squeo, a staff reporter covering the Justice
Department for The Wall Street Journal.
It was two years ago that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote an Op-Ed for
The New York Times saying that when he was sent to Africa by the CIA in 2002,
he found no evidence supporting the claim that Iraq was trying to acquire
nuclear materials in Niger. He suggested that some of the intelligence
related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi
A week after the Op-Ed, conservative columnist Robert Novak published a piece
saying that senior administration confidential sources told him that Wilson's
trip to Africa was suggested by his wife, who was a CIA operative. Wilson
says his wife was outed to punish and discredit him. Novak has testified
before the grand jury but declined to publicly discuss his role.
Yesterday Robert Novak broke his silence on his involvement in the story.
What did his article tell us that we didn't already know? Anne Marie, you
want to start?
Ms. ANNE MARIE SQUEO (The Wall Street Journal): Sure. I don't think it told
us anything that we didn't already know. He has written a column before--one
column between the original column that disclosed Valerie Plame's name and
now--it was in October of '03--and he seemed to repeat some stuff that he had
already said in October of 2003. So I don't think there was much new stuff in
there. I mean, Novak has now twice made reference to "Who's Who in America"
and former diplomat Joseph Wilson's listing there and how it mentions his
wife's name. And he may or may not be trying to signal something, but...
Mr. ADAM LIPTAK (The New York Times): The larger problem with Novak is that
we're now in a situation where four different reporters have testified. All
of them have more or less laid out what they've talked about. One reporter,
Judith Miller of The New York Times, is in jail now coming up on a month. And
yet Robert Novak, although he's free to talk about what he may have said to
the grand jury, if indeed he testified, just won't lay out the facts. And
that lack of transparency and--is a kind of violation, I think, of the bond
that journalists have with their readers to--not to say who his source was, no
one's suggesting that--but that he should say what he has done or not done in
cooperating with the special prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
GROSS: One of the things that Novak did say in his column is that Bill
Harlow, the CIA spokesperson who warned him twice not to publish the name of
Valerie Wilson or Valerie Plame, that it--Novak says Harlow never said that
she was undercover or that her disclosure would endanger her or anybody else.
`And had he said that,' Novak said, `I wouldn't have printed it.' Harlow says
he couldn't reveal her identity as a covert officer because it's classified.
He'd be violating the law if he revealed that. So, Adam Liptak, how do you
interpret those two different versions of the story?
Mr. LIPTAK: He has from time to time in very cryptic ways in his columns
alluded to what he was told, and his line is sort of that, yes, the CIA asked
him not to publish but they didn't ask very hard. It was a sort of soft
request and, had they asked better, he would not have published her identity.
And somehow this latest comment got him worked up and he came back to the
subject. But he concedes that he was told by the CIA that they would like him
not to publish her identity, and why else would the CIA ask but that it would
compromise some aspect of their operations?
Ms. SQUEO: Just one point to add. It's just sort of an interesting thing. I
haven't covered intelligence per se in my career, but in talking to my
colleagues who have, you just don't publish CIA agents' names without really
good reason. I mean, it's fine to publish the director or the deputy director
or some, like, high-ranking official who's in the public sphere, but the
average CIA agent isn't named because often you can't know if they're
undercover or not. And it's always been very widely accepted by reporters
that they just don't publish CIA agents' names willy-nilly. And he appears to
have done that in this case.
GROSS: Novak is clearly not a fan of Joseph Wilson and doesn't think of
Wilson as being very credible. He says in his column yesterday Wilson was
discarded a year ago by the Kerry presidential campaign after the Senate
committee reported that much of what he said had no basis in fact. Covering
the story, do you think that Joseph Wilson's credibility has been factually
undermined? I know people have been trying to undermine his credibility, but
is there any evidence that he actually really is not credible as a source
about Saddam Hussein and attempts to sell--to buy yellowcake in Niger?
Ms. SQUEO: I mean, certainly there are people who are less credible who have
put themselves out there as experts on Saddam Hussein and Niger. I mean, I
think that what's interesting about that original Bob Novak column is it
actually isn't that critical of Joe Wilson. That seems to be a relatively new
thing he's gotten into. But the man did have a resume that would make him an
obvious candidate for this. He probably didn't do himself any favors by
joining the Kerry campaign, which, you know, could give this whole situation
an air of partisanship.
But, you know, he went there, which is more than a lot of other people did at
the time, and he spent 10 days there--or eight days there and he talked to a
lot of people, and he came away convinced that this thing hadn't happened.
And certainly the administration has since agreed that, you know, that was
something that probably they shouldn't have included in the State of the Union
Mr. LIPTAK: OK, I think you've gotta separate out two issues. One is that at
least in a detail, but probably an important detail, Wilson may have
overstated the situation. He fairly categorically said that his wife had
nothing to do with sending him to Niger. Most people now agree and the Senate
committee has found that she at least suggested his name. She didn't send
him. She wouldn't have had the power to send him. She didn't authorize
sending him, but she did have a role in sending him to Niger. And I guess
that goes to the question of whether he was there on--in some sense in a
nepotistic way, in a way that undermines his seriousness of his mission. I'm
not sure I buy that, but it is a topic that's at least worthy of discussion,
and Novak would say that that's the topic that his initial column discussed.
On the other hand, it's largely a separate issue from whether someone--it's
entirely a separate issue from whether someone should violate the law in--for
political ends in disclosing the identity of a CIA agent, whatever the
GROSS: Now you could argue that it's in the best interests of President Bush
and the White House to downplay this whole story of the CIA leak--to downplay
it as much as possible because, you know, let's face it, people in the Bush
administration are implicated in this. You know, Karl Rove, Lewis Libby, did
they help leak the name or did they leak the identity of a covert agent? You
could also argue it's in the best interests of Bush's opponents to keep this
story going because it might finally discredit people in the Bush White House.
Are you getting a lot of sources who are trying to spin the story for you now,
and are you actually getting leaks from each side trying to spin the story?
Mr. LIPTAK: Well, it's a funny thing because even as this case supposedly is
drying up confidential sources all over town, in this very case people are
leaking like crazy. And, of course, they leak for partisan ends. That's--but
that's not unusual in the world of leaking. People generally have an agenda,
and it's the job of the journalist to try to filter out the facts from the
agenda. Is this good for Democrats, bad for Republicans? Seemingly so and
that does, of course, color the way people talk to you. It's very hard.
Grand juries are secret, meant to be secret, and perhaps Anne Marie has better
luck than me. But Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, has run an
exceedingly tight ship.
GROSS: Would you talk a little bit more about the difficulty of covering a
story that's involved with a grand jury investigation when the special
prosecutor has urged everybody who testifies not to talk about their
Ms. SQUEO: I mean, you know, as Adam just said, grand juries are meant to be
secret because, you know, at the end of the day, most often they end up
indicting people but they also don't at times based on the evidence that
they've seen. And this case has gone on--I guess this grand jury was
impaneled of January of 2004. So they've been at this for a while and, I
mean, they've had some big lulls as a result of the appellate process for the
media subpoenas and stuff. But, I mean, they've gotten a lot of information,
and no one covering the story has--I mean, I wouldn't put myself out
there--has any idea whether there will be any indictments. I mean, it's
just--it's that secretive.
And that's what actually makes this quite hard because when you get drips and
drabs from one side's attorney or some other folks and you really don't know
how they know this except through their client, and obviously if you're a good
prosecutor you're asking questions that, you know, may or may not be giving
the witness any sign of where you're going. At the end of the day the witness
walks out of the room not knowing what you were thinking. So, I mean, Karl
Rove can sit there and testify and he can leave the room--and he's obviously a
very brilliant man--but he may have no idea what Pat Fitzgerald was really
after and what question was sort of the most crucial one to him. That said,
he--you know, Karl Rove has been called back to testify three times which,
even his own defense attorney would admit, is not normal. I mean, that's a
fairly aggressive callback.
GROSS: My guests are Anne Marie Squeo of The Wall Street Journal and Adam
Liptak of The New York Times. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guests are Adam Liptak of The New York Times and Anne Marie Squeo
of The Wall Street Journal. They're covering the story of who leaked that
Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was a CIA undercover operative.
Let's sum up a little bit of what we know so far in this investigation and
what we know of different peoples' involvement. Let's start with Karl Rove.
Adam Liptak, what do we know so far about Karl Rove's involvement?
Mr. LIPTAK: The only thing we know for sure is that he talked to Matt Cooper
and that he talked to Robert Novak and that in each case, while not using the
name of Valerie Plame or Valerie Wilson, which is the name she actually goes
by, he, at a minimum, confirmed that--her identity as a CIA operative. And
whether that was benign or not, whether that violated or not the 1982 law
that's at the root of this investigation which makes it--it's fairly hard to
violate, but it's a serious criminal statute. It makes it a crime to
intentionally, knowingly disclose the identity of an undercover agent who has
been in the field in the past five years and whose identity you know the
government is trying to keep secret. That requires quite a lot of knowledge,
actually, and one thing we're hearing from Rove's camp is that Rove contends
that he heard this information directly or secondhand from journalists, which
would suggest that he didn't have the kind of knowledge that's required to
violate the law.
GROSS: What do we know about Lewis Libby's involvement? Lewis Libby is the
chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney.
Ms. SQUEO: Well, I mean, in that case we seem to know that he spoke to
Matthew Cooper because Cooper has testified about that conversation. But--and
also I believe--Adam, correct me if I'm wrong--but Libby also has said he
thinks he heard about it from a journalist...
Mr. LIPTAK: Right.
Ms. SQUEO: ...about Ms. Wilson's identity. So the interesting element of the
journalist defense--which is an interesting one for this administration--is if
these guys also knew this, if they also at the same time had, say, this State
Department memo that everyone has been focused on which makes clear that her
identity is secret and that she is a CIA operative, if they also had access to
that and saw that, and knew independently that her identity was classified and
even though they heard it from a journalist they still broke a separate law, a
federal criminal law, for releasing classified information or confirming even
So the 1982 law is, as Adam said, very narrow, and it was written specifically
to address the Philip Agee situation where he had a list of CIA agents that he
disclosed maliciously, intending to hurt the United States and the potential
welfare of these agents. And that's a hard bar to get over. But there are
federal criminal statutes that require those with access to classified
information not to release it and not to confirm it. Now, of course, that's
difficult 'cause in this town classified information is released every single
day by accident and on purpose. But that's certainly available to the special
prosecutor if he wants to go ahead and make charges in this case. If he
decides that, well, it didn't meet the 1982 statute's requirements but, in
fact, they have violated this other aspect of the law.
GROSS: Let's look at the State Department memo that was circulated just
before Robert Novak's column was published. It was written to then Secretary
of State Powell. He is known to have had it on Air Force One. What is the
importance of this State Department memo?
Mr. LIPTAK: Well, that goes back to Anne Marie's point that to the extent
administration officials, who may have shared Valerie Plame's identity with
journalists, knew it from an--a classified source like that memo, they may
well be in trouble under the 1982 law. So what Fitzgerald seems to be doing
is trying to nail down what their source of information was because he does
need to show that they learned it through--from classified sources and
then--or at least knew it from classified sources at a time when they may also
have been hearing it elsewhere.
GROSS: Alberto Gonzales, who is now attorney general and in 2003 was White
House counsel, was told at 8:30 in the evening on September 29th, 2003, that
there was going to be an investigation into this CIA leak. But it wasn't
until the following morning, about 12 hours later, that he informed the White
House that it had to preserve all materials relevant to the investigation.
There is one person he told the evening that he was notified, and that was the
White House chief of staff. Adam Liptak, what questions does this raise?
Mr. LIPTAK: I have seen no indic--I mean, obviously it would have been better
to do everything immediately, but I've seen no indication that--and there's
been no allegation that in the meantime anyone was destroying evidence, that
the White House acted in any way except responsibly in trying to preserve and
turn over phone logs and so on. And from all indications, Mr. Fitzgerald has
had access to all sorts of things that have allowed him to pinpoint particular
conversations between particular officials and particular journalists. So I
suppose it would have been better if the e-mail saying `preserve all
documents' went out the moment Gonzales knew, but in the real world a 12-hour
gap is not the most unusual thing.
Ms. SQUEO: Yeah, I think that's right. I think that's a little bit of a red
herring that folks have latched on to. I mean, perhaps they did try to
destroy a lot of documents, but as we all know, you know, it's kind of hard to
destroy phone records and e-mails have a shelf life, you know, longer than a
human one these days.
GROSS: What do you think is the larger significance of the story, the larger
questions that this story raises? I know that we're still in the question
phase 'cause we don't have a lot of information. But knowing what you know
now, what is the story really about? What is the larger story about? Adam?
Mr. LIPTAK: You know, I can't help but be fascinated by the press angle here.
The Wall Street Journal--and Anne Marie was one of the reporters on the
story--had a really good story last week about how Time magazine and The New
York Times took quite different positions in the end about the level of--about
how they and their reporters should cooperate in this investigation. And I
think one of the many things that this case has exposed is a sort of fault
line between different kinds of media companies.
GROSS: Anne Marie, in the article you co-wrote in The Wall Street Journal
about why Matt Cooper and Time ended up getting a different lawyer from the
lawyer they originally started out with 'cause they and Judith Miller were
originally represented by the same lawyer...
Ms. SQUEO: Right.
GROSS: ...you write about how Matt Cooper and Time felt that their interests
were diverging from Judith Miller's. In what ways?
Ms. SQUEO: Well, I think there were two issues for Matt Cooper. I mean, one
was that he had agreed at one point in 2004 to testify over his conversation
with Scooter Libby after he got permission from Mr. Libby to do that. So--and
Judith was, at the time, fairly public in saying that she didn't believe that
these waivers that the special prosecutor had obtained from administration
officials were sort of valid. They were requirements. They had to sign them,
and therefore, you know, they were kind of coerced. And so there was already
some friction there. I mean, Cooper has decided that his waiver plus some
express permission from Libby has allowed him to testify. Miller is out
publicly saying she thinks these waivers are coerced. So there was that.
And then there is this sort of interesting separate thing between Miller and
the special prosecutor because they've got a separate case going on involving
an Islamic charity that may or may not have been involved in terrorist
financing. And Patrick Fitzgerald in that case has tried to obtain Judith
Miller's phone records in order to prove that the--a New York Times story
about this charity may have tipped them off to the fact that the FBI was going
to raid them. And a judge in New York denied his request. So there is this
tension point between Miller and Fitzgerald. Now, I mean, I don't know if
that affects his thinking in any way, shape or form but, I mean, it was a
different--again, another difference between Cooper's situation and Miller's
GROSS: In describing, you know, Cooper and Miller, Cooper, like Miller,
didn't think that a blanket waiver was a serious waiver. The difference is
that Cooper's lawyer, I think, asked for and ended up getting a personal
waiver. I'm not sure that Judith Miller ever asked for the personal waiver.
She might have accepted it had it been offered, but I don't know that she
actually asked for it.
Mr. LIPTAK: Let me first say that I'm here as a reporter; I don't speak for
Judy; I don't speak for The Times. But I can say that Judy and her lawyers
have declined to answer the question of whether they have done anything at all
to contact the source and try to obtain a satisfactory waiver.
GROSS: Our interview with Adam Liptak of The New York Times and Anne Marie
Squeo of The Wall Street Journal was recorded this morning. We'll hear the
rest of it in the second half of the show.
I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: Coming up, classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz considers how
director Preston Sturges used classical music in his film "Unfaithfully
Yours," which is just out on DVD. Also, more with reporters Adam Liptak and
Anne Marie Squeo on covering the story of the CIA leak.
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. We're talking with two reporters
covering the CIA leak case. My guests are Adam Liptak, national legal
correspondent for The New York Times, and Anne Marie Squeo, a staff writer
covering the Justice Department for The Wall Street Journal.
Let me get back to the question that I had asked Adam. Anne Marie, what do
you think is the largest significance of this story? Finally, what is the
Ms. SQUEO: Well, certainly, I mean, as a bunch of journalists who love to
study themselves, I mean, I think the media stuff is interesting. But I also
think, as somebody who's spent a lot of time in this profession in Washington,
that it kind of reveals this--in a way that we don't always see every day,
this dark underbelly of how the spin machine works, especially in a White
House under siege over a war in Iraq. And, you know, these are not things
that were--you know, we're sort of privy to it ad hoc, depending upon your own
personal conversations with various people. But this whole investigation has
sort of exposed, you know, in a very public way the kinds of lengths that the
administration--any administration probably--goes to to protect the boss and
make him--you know, try to discredit the folks who are delivering the bad
Mr. LIPTAK: Well, and to put the worst spin on it--and it's not clear what
the right spin is, but to put the worst spin on it, the administration may
have endangered a CIA operative, or if not her, the sources she dealt with
while under cover abroad, in order to gain political advantage in connection
with a very controversial war.
Ms. SQUEO: And a short-term political advantage, I think, is sort of the key.
I mean, this is a long-term impact on her and anybody she may have had
dealings with overseas--but a short-term impact because the Joseph Wilson
thing, you know, would probably have hit for about a week or two, and then it
would have been upstaged by some other events that had happened, probably also
related to the war but not about Joseph Wilson anymore. So, I mean, this is a
fairly aggressive attack on something that may or may not have dissipated, you
know, with the apology they ended up giving for the State of the Union, had
they not gone on a spin machine--turn on the spin machine full blast. Perhaps
it would have gone away.
GROSS: Do you both agree that the story is not just about the leak of the CIA
operative's name, but it's about White House efforts to discredit information
that contradicted their point of view?
Mr. LIPTAK: That's essentially what Patrick Fitzgerald says in his papers.
So, you know, that's the raison d'etre of the investigation; that this was a
calculated attempt to silence or punish an administration critic exercising
his First Amendment rights. And I paraphrase, but only a little bit, from
what the special prosecutor has put in his court papers, so that is not, you
know, a pundit's opinion but the opinion of the person conducting the
GROSS: The New York Times is part of the story. Judith Miller of The New
York Times is in prison because she will not reveal the name of her
confidential source or sources. So is the fact that The New York Times is
such a part of the story affecting the kind of resources the paper is putting
behind investigating this story?
Mr. LIPTAK: I think the answer to that is no. I think Anne Marie's right
that this is a big story regardless. If anything, on the Judy Miller aspect
of it, our executive editor, Bill Keller, has been quoted saying that he
doesn't want to see sort of jailhouse interviews with Judy and `How's Judy
doing?' kinds of stories that might elicit sympathy for her because that would
amount to a sort of special pleading. And I think the paper is trying to do
its level best to make a news judgment unaffected by the fact that it's a
player in the case. At the end of the day it's for others to judge about
whether those judgments are being correctly made. But I have the feeling that
we are doing what we can to neither come at it too hard or too soft. And I do
know that--in the relatively difficult position of covering a story involving
a colleague and my own paper, that I've never had the sense of being guided in
one direction or another, other than to write it as straight as I can.
GROSS: Have either of you broken new parts of the story, and would you
describe what that part was and how it furthered the story?
Ms. SQUEO: Well, I mean, last week--I think it was last week; it's all kind
of down in the gutter--I mean, we broke a story on the State Department memo
and how the part of it that talks about Valerie Wilson and her role in her
husband's trip to Niger was marked at the beginning `secret, not foreign,'
which basically means that, you know, in the world of classified information,
top secret is above that. And this is obviously information that the
government knew was not supposed to get out. We then further found out that
the entire memo was stamped `top secret,' which would have given anybody who
saw it a clue that they shouldn't have been discussing it very widely. So, I
mean, that was one of the interesting stories that we just found out about.
GROSS: So the implication is anybody who got the information from this State
Department memo was...
Ms. SQUEO: Would have known...
GROSS: ...would have known they should...
Ms. SQUEO: ...that they should not be talking about it.
GROSS: Right. And it would be more likely then they could actually be
charged with breaking the law...
Ms. SQUEO: Right.
GROSS: ...that forbids you from revealing the identity of an undercover
Ms. SQUEO: Well, possibly not that law, but a law that says that you're not
supposed to be disclosing or confirming classified information. I mean,
remember, that law is so narrow...
Ms. SQUEO: ...that, I mean--I'm not sure any prosecutor wants to bring a case
under that, unless he really has a ton of evidence to support it.
GROSS: And, Anne Marie, did you co-write this story?
Ms. SQUEO: Yes.
GROSS: Yeah. What could you tell us about how you got access to the memo?
Ms. SQUEO: Well, you know, in this case we talked to people who had the memo.
You know, it wasn't that I necessarily had it, but just that, you know, we
talked to, you know--as we were saying earlier, I mean, this is one of those
stories where you're trying to figure out every day who else might have a
piece of information that I haven't talked to yet and talk to them, as many
people as possible because we are in this vacuum. The special prosecutor is
not telling us anything, not that he should be necessarily, but, you know,
grand jury proceedings are secret. There is this appetite to try to figure
out what Pat Fitzgerald is trying to figure out. So we're all trying to act
as if we're, you know, our own special prosecutors.
But, I mean, I think there's a momentum here, and all the news organizations
are trying to do smart analysis, find out information that may or may not be
shedding light on the investigation and figure out where this is going.
GROSS: Adam Liptak, parts of the story that you broke?
Mr. LIPTAK: Well, I think The Times was the first paper to establish that
Karl Rove was Matt Cooper's source, and that seemed to move the story forward
significantly. We had that in a story on the day that Judy Miller was jailed,
and it got a little lost in there. But it was, nonetheless, a real turning
point in the case.
GROSS: And did you co-write that article?
Mr. LIPTAK: Yes.
GROSS: Is there anything else you could say about how you got the
Mr. LIPTAK: I think I shouldn't.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: OK. My guests are Adam Liptak of The New York Times and Anne Marie
Squeo of The Wall Street Journal. We'll talk more after a break. This is
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guests are Adam Liptak of The New York Times and Anne Marie Squeo
of The Wall Street Journal. They're covering the CIA leak case.
There are very spirited editorial pages at each of your papers, and I know
reporters are separate from the editorial pages of newspapers. But I want to
ask you about the editorial position on the story at each of your papers and
how, if at all, it's affecting the reporters covering this story. Anne Marie,
let me start with you. At The Wall Street Journal...
Ms. SQUEO: Oh, great.
GROSS: (Laughs) At The Wall Street Journal on July 13th, there was an
editorial that read, `We'd say the White House political guru Karl Rove
deserves a prize for Mr. Rove is turning out to be the real whistle-blower in
this whole pseudo scandal. He's the one who warned Time's Matthew Cooper and
other reporters to be wary of Mr. Wilson's credibility. He's the one who told
the press the truth that Mr. Wilson had been recommended for the CIA
consulting gig by his wife, not by Vice President Dick Cheney, as Mr. Wilson
was asserting on the airwaves. In short, Mr. Rove provided important
background, so Americans could understand that Mr. Wilson wasn't a
whistle-blower but was a partisan trying to discredit the Iraq War in an
election campaign. Thank you, Mr. Rove.'
Anne Marie, how did that editorial play among the reporters who are out there
covering the story and consider this investigation to be a very grave one?
Ms. SQUEO: Can I say no comment?
GROSS: You can say whatever you want.
Ms. SQUEO: I mean, you know, I make no defense of opinions that are stated in
our editorial page. I mean, they obviously--they approach a lot of different
topics in ways that are frequently at odds with the reporters who are covering
the story. But, I mean, there's a world of difference between our mission
statements as news reporters and editorial writers. And, you know, I think
it's an important story, and I don't--you know, maybe Karl Rove should get a
prize at the end of the day. But I don't think we know that by any of the
information that we have now, and I certainly would never feel comfortable
stating something like that.
GROSS: Adam Liptak, The New York Times on the whole has been very critical of
the Bush White House and, obviously, you know, supports Judith Miller's
position in not revealing her source. Have those--have The New York Times'
editorials affected the reporters covering the story or affected your ability
to get sources to talk with you?
Mr. LIPTAK: I--no and no, I think. If there's something to be said about The
New York Times editorial page is that--and The Wall Street Journal has
criticized it on these very grounds--it did call quite stridently for the
special prosecutor to investigate the leak and might have done a better job
looking over the horizon a little bit about where that might lead, which is to
say to our very own doorstep. So there is, shall we say, an irony to that?
The editorial page's positions do not affect our news coverage, and I read
them with interest and amusement, as I read The Wall Street Journal's
editorials with interest and amusement. We're in the business of trying to
nail down facts.
GROSS: How your papers changed their policies on leaks and on how to refer to
leaked information in articles? Adam?
Mr. LIPTAK: Well, over the past couple years we have become much more
sensitive to trying to minimize the number of confidential sources used in our
reporting, and when we do, to try to explain as best we can and be as straight
with the reader as we can in saying who these people are, why they're in a
position of know and what their biases might be. And I think we still have a
long way to go on that.
Looking forward, I think our paper is more geared to trying to figure out ways
to protect our sources better; to make sure that we don't find ourselves in
the position that Time did when it felt compelled to turn over e-mails
disclosing the names of confidential sources; to make sure that we don't have
phone records in the hands of third-party providers or travel records in the
hands of travel agents or anything else that might disclose confidential
sources that prosecutors and litigants and others can get their hands on. So
we're taking a very hard look at that.
I think at other papers, the LA Times--I feel like I read The Wall Street
Journal's general counsel, Stuart Karle, speaking to this, too--that people
are wondering about what sort of deal a reporter on his or her own is
authorized to make with a source. Are they allowed to make `I promise to go
to jail' deals with their sources, knowing that their company will stand
behind them if they do? My impression at The New York Times is that that
is--was, is, will continue to be a deal that I'm authorized to make and that I
believe I will uphold. I'm not sure if I were a source talking to Time
magazine, I'd be all that comfortable knowing that they would protect me to
the very end.
GROSS: Do you tell sources that you're willing to go to jail to protect their
Mr. LIPTAK: If they ask...
Mr. LIPTAK: ...and if it's the appropriate case, which is not always the
case. But in the appropriate case, very--lots--and let's not forget this:
Lots and lots of important information that bears on the conduct of government
and powerful institutions can only be gotten by promising people who would
be--their jobs and, in the case of Valerie Plame, we--some people say their
lives could be endangered, except if people manage to keep secrets. And those
secrets have been the basis for Watergate, for the Pentagon Papers, for
countless incredibly important stories.
GROSS: Anne Marie, has the policy changed at The Wall Street Journal for
taking information from confidential sources or describing that information in
Ms. SQUEO: No, the policy hasn't changed at all. The Journal has always been
kind of very rigorous and doing these seminars with reporters about these
kinds of arrangements, what it means. And certainly that's going on now
because our general counsel, Stuart Karle, who Adam just mentioned--I mean, he
is going around to some of the bureaus, especially--he came to Washington last
week, and we had an hour sit-down with him and asked him questions. And the
biggest concern I think Adam rightly stated for us is how to make sure that if
we're confronted with the same situation, The Wall Street Journal isn't, you
know, in some weird position where they're going to be--Dow Jones & Company,
our parent corporation, is going to be fined every day because they're in
possession of some notebooks.
So, I mean, the thing that most of the media outlets and certainly most of the
reporters I've spoken to are worried about and are actively addressing is:
How do we take our notes, how do we do our jobs in a way that protects both
our sources and ourselves from a subpoena?
GROSS: One of the interesting things here is, in some ways, you might have to
rely more on memory if you don't want there to be a kind of paper trail for
confidential sources. And it puts you almost in the position of being like a
spy who has to, like, eat the document afterwards, so that there's no
evidence. And, I mean, one of the important things about reporting is having
notes to refer back to, so that you can check yourself; so that you have not
just memory, which is faulty, but that you have papers, you have evidence of
what somebody said. So is it difficult...
Ms. SQUEO: That's true.
GROSS: ...to do your job and not leave a paper trail?
Mr. LIPTAK: Well, this is...
Ms. SQUEO: Yeah, I think it is. But I think, you know, some of the
things--Adam, I'll let you go. I just wanted to make one point. I mean, you
know, Matt Cooper's e-mails to his boss didn't have to take place. He could
have gotten up and gone down the hall and talked to him or called him on the
phone. I mean, there are ways that we can try to narrow the possibilities,
I mean, we've all gotten so reliant on e-mail and cell phones, and cell phone
records are so easy to get, you know, that we don't think about it anymore.
But, you know, it used to be, I mean--and it was a little before my time--but
reporters routinely used pay phones to call their sources. And, you know, I
had a colleague who used to mail prepaid phone cards to his sources and tell
them only to call them on that. And we used to joke that he was paranoid, but
apparently he had the right idea because, I mean, these--there are little ways
we can do this. I mean, it is impossible not to write stuff down, I think,
especially when you're dealing with elaborate stories. But there are little
things you can do that would make a big difference.
GROSS: If given your druthers, would you cover the story through to the end
yourselves? I mean, do you want to stay on it?
Mr. LIPTAK: Yes.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: Adam, why do you feel so strongly about it?
Mr. LIPTAK: Oh, it's--I mean, as we've sort of explored in the past hour,
it's got so many great strands to it. It's just fascinating. It's
authentically important. It implicates Justice, intelligence, foreign policy,
the role of the press. It's a terrific, fascinating story, and I only wish it
were a little less tangled because I have the feeling that sometimes readers
get lost when you try to explain, as we have to over paragraph after
paragraph, the tangled background of the story. But the patient reader who,
you know, is willing to absorb and take it all in will find that it's a very
illuminating, interesting story.
GROSS: Anne Marie?
Ms. SQUEO: Yeah, absolutely. And just not--you know, to echo what Adam has
said, I mean, I think that as a reporter, these are the kinds of stories you
want to cover. You know, it's kind of invigorating, and every morning you
pick up your rivals' newspapers with dread and anticipation that they may have
scooped you, you know, or really excited 'cause you might have scooped them.
And, I mean, I think it's--you know, if you're a reporter, this is a hot
story. There's a lot of very interesting aspects to it. And, you know,
there's still so much intrigue about it that we have yet to find out, and that
was one of the interesting points I wanted to make to you.
I mean, we don't know if we'll ever find out what has happened in the last two
years because, at the end of the day, if the special prosecutor decides not to
bring charges against anyone because he's not an independent counsel under the
old independent counsel law, he has no responsibility to issue a report to
tell us what we've all been chasing for two years and why he made the decision
that he made. So, I mean, you know, we're all sort of--you know, it's kind of
like a cliffhanger, and we're really trying to put together where the story is
going without having any idea whether we'll ever know where the story went.
GROSS: I want to thank you both very much for talking with us.
Mr. LIPTAK: Thank you.
Ms. SQUEO: Well, thank you for having us.
GROSS: Adam Liptak is national legal correspondent for The New York Times.
Anne Marie Squeo covers the Justice Department and law enforcement for The
Wall Street Journal. Our interview was recorded this morning.
You can see a time line of the CIA leak case on our Web site,
Coming up, Lloyd Schwartz reviews a classic Preston Sturges film which is now
out on DVD. This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: Preston Sturges' "Unfaithfully Yours"
TERRY GROSS, host:
Many films use classical music to heighten the emotion of a particular scene,
but our music critic Lloyd Schwartz says few directors exploit the
possibilities of classical music as brilliantly as Preston Sturges did in his
1948 comedy "Unfaithfully Yours." It's now out on DVD, and Lloyd has a
(Soundbite of music)
LLOYD SCHWARTZ reporting:
I've been waiting a long time for one of my favorite movie musicals to come
out on DVD, Preston Sturges' "Unfaithfully Yours." It's not a musical in the
usual sense of characters suddenly bursting into song. It's a movie about
making music, classical music, and about how music connects to real life.
It stars Rex Harrison as a famous British conductor modeled on the great Sir
Thomas Beecham, who has been led to believe that his adored and adoring wife,
Linda Darnell, has been unfaithful to him. Most of the film takes place at a
concert Harrison is conducting--or, rather, in Harrison's mind while he's
conducting. And the three pieces on his program determine the nature of his
The first piece Harrison conducts is the overture to Rossini's opera
"Semiramide." Its wild mood swings, from contemplative and stealthy to
military and manic, are perfect for Harrison's complicated machinations. The
camera slowly enters Harrison's head right through his eyes, and we watch him
as jealous as Othello working out a cunning murder plot. He slashes Darnell's
throat with a straight razor and makes a recording in which he imitates her
screaming, so that her supposed lover will rush to her rescue and get caught
with his fingerprints on the razor.
(Soundbite of "Unfaithfully Yours")
Mr. REX HARRISON: Help! Help!
SCHWARTZ: In Harrison's fantasy, everything works perfectly, and a major
source of the comedy is the perfect timing to the music.
(Soundbite of "Unfaithfully Yours"; music)
Mr. HARRISON: Help! Help!
Ms. LINDA DARNELL: No! Don't! Please no!
(Soundbite of music)
SCHWARTZ: During the next piece on the concert program, the solemn overture
to Wagner's "Tannhauser," Harrison imagines offering Darnell magnanimous
forgiveness in a wonderful send-up of Wagner's gooey spirituality. And in
Tchaikovsky's impassioned "Francesca da Rimini," Harrison envisions
challenging his alleged rival to a game of Russian roulette. Later, when he
actually tries to carry out his fantasies, of course, everything goes
hilariously wrong. Reality has no room for the exquisite perfection of art.
Harrison's wrestling match with his home recording machine is a side-splitting
image of the artistic temperament coming to grief with technology.
(Soundbite of music)
SCHWARTZ: And Alfred Newman's "Looney Tunes" scoring brilliantly deconstructs
(Soundbite of music)
SCHWARTZ: Sturges' script is a marvel of wit and wordplay. When an
inquisitive columnist wants to know why Harrison conducts from a score, a
reference to Arturo Toscanini famously conducting from memory, Harrison
answers acidly, `It's because I can actually read music.' I love the scene in
which the private eye who's been following Linda Darnell, wonderful Edgar
Kennedy, who played a lot of detectives in his long film career, turns out to
be one of Harrison's biggest fans.
(Soundbite of "Unfaithfully Yours")
Mr. EDGAR KENNEDY: Here's to the world's greatest living conductor.
Mr. HARRISON: Which is hardly what I came to see you about, Mister...
Mr. KENNEDY: The way you handle Handel, Sir Alfred. For me, there's nobody
handles Handel like you handle Handel.
Mr. HARRISON: Really?
Mr. KENNEDY: There's you up here, and then there's nobody, no second, no
third; maybe way down here, Arturo, a poor fourth.
Mr. HARRISON: It is largely debatable, but in any case what I came to see you
Mr. KENNEDY: A hundred ...(unintelligible) delirious. I usually have my...
SCHWARTZ: "Unfaithfully Yours" is very funny about taking high art too
soberly and surprisingly moving in its examination of the self-delusions of
passion. It was not a hit in 1948, partly because black comedy wasn't a very
familiar genre, and Sturges style ranges from sophisticated parody to broad
farce. The studio didn't know how to publicize the movie. They called it a
murder mystery. No wonder audiences were confused. But we know better now.
"Unfaithfully Yours" is Sturges' last masterpiece, maybe the last great comedy
of the 1940s and one of the best films about music ever made.
GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of The Boston Phoenix. He
reviewed Preston Sturges' "Unfaithfully Yours," which is now out on DVD.
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.