Pearlstine Book on the Press and Libby Case Draws Wide Attention

Article excerpt

The upcoming book by Norman Pearlstine, the former chief Time Inc. editor, has drawn wide attention in recent days. It will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux next week, and it's titled "Off The Record: The Press, the Government, and the War over Anonymous Sources."

One side plot in the book involves Time vs. The New York Times. Pearlstine is often critical of Judith Miller (calling her reasons for going to jail "suspect"), the Times' over-the-top defense of her and its attorney Floyd Abrams, who also represented Time's Matt Cooper for a time. He relates on anecdote that has Cooper, after listening to an Abrams argument in court, writing in his notebook, "Je Suis F----d."

Perhaps the most amusing moment in the book (there aren't many) comes when Pearlstine reprints emails exchanged by Cooper's post-Abrams lawyer Dick Sauber and prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald after Cooper's notes had been submitted.

Fitzgerald had just discovered that Cooper had been standing stark naked in his apartment when he received the fateful call that kept him out of jail -- when Libby said it was okay that he testify. Sauber joked that at least the jury would be impressed by Cooper's "transparency." Fitzgerald wrote back that he always believed in not ordering witnesses to dress up for court, preferring that they dress the way they feel most comfortable. Now, he said, he might have to change that policy.

As editor-in-chief at Time Inc., Pearlstine was drawn deeply into the Plame/CIA leak case when Time reporter Cooper refused to divulge the names of his two sources. Cited for contempt, and on the brink of going to jail along with Miller of The New York Times, Cooper agreed to give up the names after Pearlstine relented on turning over internal material to the prosecutor. Pearlstine then was attacked by the Times, and some on his own staff, and villified by many others in the media.

Pearlstine reveals that he solicited opinions from several editors he admired beforehand, such as John Carroll, the former editor of the Los Angeles Times and one of his oldest friends in journalism (they had worked together at the Haverford News). Pearlstine writes of Carroll's response to the debate over the notes: "He was stunned. He couldn't imagine that I would even consider turning over Matt's notes."

In the book, Pearlstine, now a senior adviser to the Carlyle Group, lays out in close detail every step of the legal and journalistic debate. …