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Tuesday | October 07, 2003

Despite Public Differences, Novak Found Common Cause with Neocons

By Meteor Blades

Just when you thought Bob Novak might drop out of the headlines for a few days, the Washington Postís Dana Milbank digs into the archives and comes up with this gem:

Let's review: Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak gets a leak of classified information from foreign-policy hardliners. The column he writes causes a huge embarrassment for the Republican White House and moderates throughout the administration. Capitol Hill erupts with protests about the leak.

Sound familiar? Actually, this occurred in December 1975. Novak, with his late partner Rowland Evans, got the classified leak -- that President Gerald R. Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were ready to make concessions to the Soviet Union to save the SALT II treaty. Donald H. Rumsfeld, then, as now, the secretary of defense, intervened to block Kissinger.

The main leak suspect: Richard Perle, then an influential aide to Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-Wash.) and now a member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and a confidant of neoconservatives in the Bush administration. The account was described in a 1977 article in The Washington Post, noting Perle's "special access" to Evans and Novak. Ö

"One congressional aide who tries to counter Perle's and Jackson's influence on arms issues said the Evans and Novak 'connection' helps Perle create a 'murky, threatening atmosphere' in his dealings with others." Ö

Milbank notes that in 1986, the Los Angeles Times quoted then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dave Durenberger (R-Minn.) complaining about the "prostitution of national secrets" and "the frequency with which columns by these two writers are peppered with sensitive national security information."

Any investigative reporter with staying power depends on anonymous, inside sources. Without these, many important stories would never be told. Good reporters, of course, seek confirmation from someone, preferably several someones, that what the secret source claims is true. And he or she works diligently to get one or more of those someones on the record. But many times, itís simply not possible.

So after a source phones a reporter with a hot tip or brings documents to a parking garage, the reporter must use good judgment. Is the story truly important? Has the source provided accurate information previously? What is the sourceís motivation? Is he or she a principled whistleblower, a vicarious thrill-seeker, a vengeful manipulator, a minion of some higher-upís disinformation team? A smart, ethical reporter must weigh all these factors and more. Every investigative reporter of long standing can cite as least one instance when he or she was burned by gauging wrong.

But Novak makes no ordinary use of secret sources. Instead, he has a history of compromising American secrets and causing damage wherever certain Rightwingers in various administrations have wanted to cause damage. He is not merely a prickly conservative reporter of conservative views. Rather he is, in effect, a special ops agent working under ďnon-official cover,Ē a cog in the machinery of neoconservatives who have sought for decades to seize hold of the levers of U.S. foreign policy.

Such is not a proper role for a journalist worthy of the name. Novak has shown through a pattern of activities dating back a generation that he isnít one. This time, itís starting to appear that heís gone too far.

Posted October 07, 2003 01:38 AM | Comments (68)





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