Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pearlstine: Rove Never 'Merited' Confidential Source Status in Plame Case

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pearlstine: Rove Never 'Merited' Confidential Source Status in Plame Case

Article excerpt

Norman Pearlstine, who was editor in chief of Time Inc. when Time magazine writer Matt Cooper faced jail time in the Valerie Plame case, told a Medill School of Journalism audience Tuesday evening that he doesn't think White House advisor Karl Rove really deserved his status as a "confidential source" of Cooper's.

"Outing Valerie Plame, exposing a valuable (CIA) agent for no particular reason, didn't, in my mind, merit protecting confidentiality," Pearlstine said.

Pearlstine revisited the tangled case of Plame's outing -- and its repercussions for journalists -- in an hour-long lecture at Northwestern University. His book on the subject, "Off The Record: The Press, The Government, And The War Over Anonymous Sources," was recently published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.

For all the aggravation that Patrick Fitzgerald caused him and Time Inc., Pearlstine said he came away with enormous respect for the special prosecutor. "When I consider all the things that happened when Alberto Gonzales was attorney general -- I really considered him an outpost of sanity," Pearlstine said.

In fact, he said, he sent Fitzgerald a copy of his book with the inscription: "I couldn't have written this without you."

He told the audience that when the controversy first arose -- when a furor erupted over the disclosure that Plame was a covert agent and the suggestion was made she had somehow arranged to have her husband Joseph Wilson sent to Niger where he discredited a White House suggestion Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear-grade uranium in Africa -- that he "didn't pay as much attention to it" as he should have.

At the same time, he said, he thought that the landmark press-rights cases from the 1970s, the Pentagon Papers Supreme Court decision and the various Watergate rulings, would protect Cooper and other journalists who were subpoenaed by "Plamegate" special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. …

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