MONDAY’S LETTERS: Gail Collins and WMDs, the ‘Santa Barbara News-Press’ Flap, Novak and Plame Blame

By: E&P Staff

In today’s letters, a reader tells of her frustration with the Santa Barbara News-Press, Bob Novak is blamed for outing ex-CIA agent Valerie Plame, and questions about Gail Collins’ WMD regrets.


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On the ‘Santa Barbara News-Press’ Flap

I have been to your site several times the past two weeks to get news about my community. Many of us are shocked, angry, frustrated and sad. I do wish you could get more accurate figures on how many subscriptions have been cancelled — it is several hundred I believe. … The Independent (free weekly) and the Internet are our only source of information.

It is difficult (and has been since the NY Times sold the paper) to adjust to this owner and now impossible to trust any printed news in our paper. This is all made even more difficult that the owner is a billionaire who does not really care about the community, local news or financial impacts of any local actions.

Toni Harlan


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Novak, Plame and the Truth

Dear Tim Russert … Much of your questioning seemed tough-minded and attempting to draw [Robert] Novak out on many of the questions your viewers probably most wanted to have answered. Still as the interview drew to a close Novak was still claiming the Plame was not a covert agent. And things were left as his word or sources against others who said she was.

I know you are a trained reporter and I’m sure you do plenty of homework before you go into a studio. With Novak you certainly knew this was going to be one of the central questions. And it is a damn important question.

The evidence seems totally overwhelming relating to Plame:

1) The C.I.A. launched a criminal investigation with the Justice Department because her name had been revealed.

2) The Justice Department decided to follow up the investigation. They certainly wouldn’t have done this if they didn’t know she was convert.

3) And when Fitzgerald took on the prosecution again he and the judge were in a position to review her status at the C.I.A. since it was central to the complaint.

4) But last we have the evidence in a Newsweek story of February 13, 2006. … But special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald found that Plame had indeed done “covert work overseas” on counterproliferation matters in the past five years, and the CIA “was making specific efforts to conceal” her identity, according to newly released portions of a judge’s opinion.

Your job is not necessarily to get into editorial-type arguments with those you interview. But if they are stating as fact things you know are not true, don’t you as a newsman owe it to your audience to challenge their statement with the facts and ask them how they justify what they just have said. It’s got to make for an exciting moment and also allow the public to hear the truth.

Am I missing something here? Isn’t this what any newsperson should be doing for a living? It’s called giving the public the opportunity to know the facts, not just letting spin confuse the public on an important question.

Barry Downes



[Robert] Novak is one treasonous ****bag, and should be tried on grounds of treason, right along with Bush, Cheney, Libby and Karl Rove.

It’s a plain, undisputed fact that the United States lost a CIA agent’s delicate network of contacts built up over years and years, when Novak printed “Double Super Secret” classified information that was leaked to him by this recklessly vindictive administration.

Cheney et al blew up the CIA’s network of actual WMD espionage agents to bolster forged documents.

For that alone, this administration MUST be called to account, under oath, and by a fully independent legal body. Not a lone prosecutor who is subordinate to those faithful to one accused.

In addition, why does the press continually ignore the fact that the “intelligence” Bush and Cheney were promoting was drawn from forged documents found in Italy. Who forged these documents, and why? Who were they connected to? Why have these questions not been answered after 3 years? …

David Ashford
New York, N.Y.



Bob Novak may as well give up the battle to be believed. Readers will forever think of him as the guy who outed Valerie Plame, then ducked and dodged when the time came to ‘fess up. For a talk show star, he has been remarkably ill at ease when the subject of blowing a spy’s cover has come up in a forum other than those on which he has a lock.

Wes Pedersen
Chevy Chase, Md.


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Gail Collins and WMDs

To get perhaps the biggest issue in American history wrong and come out several years later is I think truly unfortunate, and definitely unwise. Shouldn’t we have seen one op-ed demanding more troops in Afghanistan post 9/11? … And what of the House of Saud? The only person I remember on television questioning the decision to give them a pass was (a) Michael Moore and (b) Robert Baer. Where was the New York Times? Where did they go?

Their foreign affairs columnist could have come out swinging. Instead, he chose to begrudgingly acquiesce. Never before have I seen a complete lack of critical thinking. I am no military expert, but all the signs were pointing to Iraq being a trap. Regular Americans were asked to trust CHALABI? Are you kidding me? I’m sorry, but it’s probably better she not say anthing at all, than to come out now and say “we should have done more.” When you are about to destroy a nation, there is no “maybe we were wrong.” There is only the grim acceptance of your action. There is no “sorry about that”. That is outrageous. Can you imagine if after dropping the H bomb we said “sorry” to Japan? OUTRAGEOUS.

[Joe Strupp’s] piece is truly insulting to those who warned of the dangers in Iraq. Mr. Scowcroft must be rolling his eyes at reading Collins’ words. Osama is laughing … laughing at the stupidity of the United States. Shakespeare could not have written such a tragedy.

Chris Yang



I don’t care what newspaper [Gail Collins] works for, how can anyone not intimately involved in some division of the U.S. government “think” a country has weapons of mass destruction when the president himself didn’t know? Believe, me I’m not a genius — at least not that I know of — and [even] I knew that the President didn’t know Iraq had WMDs. That’s absurd, and I think really does damage to her credibility as any sort of “thinker” at all.

I could see if she had a brother, or uncle or knew SOMEONE with some inside information. Maybe you know all this already — I certainly hope so — and maybe you’re just reporting what she said and realize how ridiculous it is.

And the board? Who cares wether the board “thinks” Iraq has WMDs? The question is, “Did anyone know?” …

Chris Zurcher

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