Both Houses of Congress Get Involved in ‘Gannon’ Case

By: Joe Strupp

Two leaders of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee want the federal prosecutor investigating the Valeria Plame case to subpoena a personal journal of controversial White House reporter James Guckert, following Editor & Publisher’s disclosure yesterday that Guckert claims he kept the journal for the past two years.

“It is clear that a primary obstacle to the … investigation is uncovering a precise chronology of when, and to whom, classified information was leaked,” Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), one of those seeking the subpoena, told E&P. “The revelation by Editor & Publisher that Mr. Guckert kept contemporaneous records of his ‘reporting’ activities could well be a major step forward in developing such a chronology.”

In addition, E&P has confirmed an report on The Raw Story that Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) is circulating a letter among his colleagues that asks President Bush to launch an investigation into how Guckert, who writes under the byline ?Jeff Gannon,? gained access to White House press briefings over two years despite having no journalism background and using a false name.

Both letters are just the latest in a string of inquiries by congressional leaders, which have included a previous request by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) for documents related to Guckert’s continued White House access.

In the latest effort, Conyers and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) sent a joint letter today to Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor investigating who leaked the identity of Plame, a CIA agent, to several reporters. Guckert, who worked for GOPUSA.com and Talon News before resigning two weeks ago, interviewed Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, last year.

Guckert has been interviewed by FBI agents on the Plame case and given conflicting signals, over many months, concerning whether he saw a secret document or merely knew about it from other sources.

Conyers and Slaughter indicated in their letter that Guckert’s journal might contain information of value to the Plame investigation if, in fact, Guckert had been given some sort of access to documents related to the Plame leaks.

“A person in the White House briefing room who had access to a memo revealing the operative?s name also kept a journal of his days covering the White House,” the letter to Fitzgerald stated. “We bring this to your attention because we believe your office may need to subpoena the journal to further the work of the grand jury.”

“It now appears that Mr. Guckert memorialized his experiences at the White House,” the letter added, noting Guckert’s comments to E&P that he might turn the journal into a book. “It would be unfortunate if Mr. Guckert published information that would be useful to your investigation, such as the identity of the person who gave him the memo, without your office having the benefit of its contents.”

Durbin, meanwhile, is hoping to send Bush his letter demanding that the president investigate how Guckert was able to attend regular press briefings despite working for a Web site with obvious partisan support for the Republican Party, the senator’s office confirmed to E&P, after the existence of the letter was first reported at the Raw Story online site.

“We have … learned that the questions he posed at White House press briefings and the stories he filed for Talon News frequently mirrored Republican Party talking points, that Talon News is a news organization in name only and that it has apparently close connections to the Republican party,” Durbin’s letter states. “Given the unprecedented level of security in Washington since 9/11, it is troubling that that a non-journalist using a false name and working for a sham news organization could have gained regular access to the White House for such an extended period of time.

“We respectfully request that you order an immediate and thorough investigation into the Gannon/Guckert matter,” Durbin declares in the letter. “How is it possible that a man using a fake name, with dubious journalism credentials, was able to clear the White House?s extensive security screening process and gain such close access to you and your staff for such an extended period of time? Have there been other, similar breaches of security and journalism standards? We appreciate your prompt attention to this important matter. We urge you to order a full inquiry so that the American people know the facts.”

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