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Friday, February 24, 2006

Remedial Journalism

by digby

Gosh, the Republicans must be so pleased with CNN's new reporter Brian Todd. Discussing Libby's motion that contends Fitzgerald lacks authority to bring charges because proper procedure were not followed, Todd asserted:

"Here's the procedure: He or she has to be appointed by the president. He or she has to be confirmed by the senate. He or she has to answer to top justice officials whenever they want to bring and indictment of grant immunity. None of these things have occurred in the case of Mr Fitzgerald. He was appointed by an acting Attorney general. He was never confirmed by the Senate. He has had sweeping power in this case to do as he chooses."

I guess he didn't have time to check the Department of Justice Web site:

Patrick J. Fitzgerald began serving as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois on September 1, 2001. The United States Senate confirmed his nomination by unanimous consent and President Bush signed his commission on October 29, 2001.

He was named special counsel by an acting attorney general because the attorney general recused himself from the case.

Here's what the GAO had to say about Fitzgerald's mandate:

"The parameters of his authority and independence are defined in the appointment letters which delegate to Special Counsel Fitzgerald all (plenary) the authority of the Attorney General with respect to the Department's investigation into the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee's identity with the direction that he exercise such authority independent of the supervision or control of any officer of the Department. [13]. In addition, Department officials informed us that the express exclusion of Special Counsel Fitzgerald from the application of 28 C.F.R. Part 600, which contains provisions that might conflict with the notion that the Special Counsel in this investigation possesses all the power of the Attorney General, contributes to the Special Counsel's independence. [14] Thus, Special Counsel Fitzgerald need not follow the Department's practices and procedures if they would subject him to the approval of an officer or employee of the Department. For example, 28 C.F.R. 600.7 requires that a Special Counsel consult with the Attorney General before taking particular actions."

That took me five minutes with Google. I would imagine that Brian Todd could have had some flunky do the same thing before he proclaimed that Fitzgerald's appointment hadn't followed this procedure. It doesn't prove anything, of course, but it does show that there might just be some legitimate differences of opinion as to whether or not their claim has merit. You don't have to be a lawyer to know that the law requiring that the special counsel be appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate meant that he or she must be a US Attorney, not that he or she must be a special appointment by the president to investigate his own administration. That wouldn't exactly make sense, now would it?

It's theoretically possible that a judge will rule in Libby's favor on this, but it is highly unlikely. You'd think that Todd would have at least picked up a phone this morning and called a legal analyst who might clue him in on the other side's arguments. When he said/she said makes sense --- as in a legal case --- they don't do it. When it comes to global warming or intelligent design they fall all overthemselves giving equal time to hucksters and fools.

Why do journalists have such a hard time understanding these distinctions?