Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Three Months Later, White House Press Office Has Not Released Documents on J.D. Guckert

The White House Press Office has not responded to a Feb. 10 request to turn over documents relating to the press credentials of J.D. Guckert (aka "Jeff Gannon").

The request was made by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). A copy of his letter to White House Press Secretary Scott McLellan can be found by clicking here.

Lautenberg aide Yuna Jacobson told JABBS yesterday that there have been "no new developments on the acquisition of related documents from the White House Press Office."

To use the popular parlance, I believe we have a filibuster.

Without the documents or other help from the White House Press Office, Lautenberg and other Senate Democrats can't undertake a thorough investigation into how Guckert received press credentials, which allowed him to ask questions of McClellan and in one case, President Bush.

A similar request for information, made April 25 by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) and Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), has also been ignored. Their letter can be found by clicking here.


Here's what we know about J.D. Guckert:

Guckert, using the pseudonym Jeff Gannon, began writing stories for Republican website on Jan. 15, 2003. By his own admission, this was his first job in journalism. GOPUSA is headed by Texas Republican activist Bobby Eberle, a Bush delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention.

According to C-Span, Guckert began attending White House press conferences in early February, 2003, and asked his first question on Feb. 28, 2003, more than a month before Talon News was created.

McClellan told Editor & Publisher that the White House considered, and later Talon News, to be legitimate news organizations, the reason they began issuing Guckert daily press passes.

"He faxed a letter in on his [GOPUSA] letterhead, they checked that it was a Web site he worked for," McClellan explained to E&P, referring to his staffers who handled such credentialing at the time. "There was a check to make sure it was a news organization and a news Web site. There was a determination made at that point [that it was legitimate]."

But the White House apparently did not realize that Guckert was using a pseudonym for nearly two years, McClellan admitted in an article earlier this year in the New York Times.

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told E&P that he was "so concerned about Talon News reporter James Guckert's potential ties to the Republican Party that he stopped calling on him at press briefings."

"I found out that he worked for a GOP site, and I didn't think it was my place to call on him because he worked for something that was related to the party," Fleischer told E&P.

Perhaps in response to Fleischer's concern, GOPUSA created Talon News on April 1, 2003.

Guckert continued to attend White House press conferences and regularly ask loaded questions until early this year, when he when he framed a Jan. 26 question to President Bush using an "irreverant" putdown from radio host Rush Limbaugh. That question raised eyebrows among liberal media critics, who began to dig into Guckert's background and the connections between Talon News and GOPUSA.

Soon thereafter, Guckert resigned, although he remains a fixture in Washington, appearing on various pundit shows and even attending a May 12 shindig supporting embattled Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX).


Lautenberg made his request for documents in February, shortly after the Guckert story exploded, yet more than three months later, the White House Press Office has done nothing.

Why? Perhaps because it hopes the story will go away. Perhaps because it knows there is no plausible explanation for how a "journalist" working for a Republican website and using a pseudonym could ask questions at a White House press conference.

For context, note that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, in covering the Guckert fiasco, wrote on Feb. 17: "I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration." (Note: She was seeking a permanent pass, not a regular daily pass like Guckert.)

Dowd went on to write: "At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass -- after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months. In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name."


Then there's the Valerie Plame issue.

The fact that Guckert used a pseudonym and still was able to attend White House press conferences is baffling -- the White House vetting process is supposed to prevent this from happening.

But what makes the pseudonym issue worse is the fact that Guckert has boasted about receiving classified documents related to outed CIA agent Valerie Plame. Is Guckert telling the truth? House Democrats Conyers and Slaughter have sought to have the ongoing Plame investigation include questioning of Guckert.

But if it is true, suggests it raises a number of questions:

-- What specific steps is President Bush taking to ensure that his administration never again illegally hands classified documents that reveal the identity of covert operatives over to someone using a pseudonym?

-- Given that Gannon was using a pseudonym, the administration official who apparently gave him the classified documents presumably did not know his true identity -- McClellan himself claimed he only "recently" became aware that Gannon is not his real name. What are the national security implications of someone running around the halls of the White House, using an assumed identity while talking to people with security clearance about CIA operatives?

(Note: A Freedom of Information Act request by Conyers and Slaughter found that Guckert entered the White House complex 196 times in two years, and attended 155 press conferences. The same request found that Guckert was allowed access to the White House 38 times when no public press events occurred. He also spent hours in the White House both before and after press events took place. But the White House hasn't answered an April 25 request from Conyers and Slaughter regarding who Guckert met on those occasions and what was discussed.).

-- Did Gannon's misrepresentation of his identity constitute a security breach?

But again, the White House Press Office isn't talking. Three months after Lautenberg's request for documents was made, the office hasn't responded.

Sounds like a filibuster to me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The White House Press office will be able to continue to ignore the request just as long as the mainstream press ignores the story. Out of sight, out of mind, so to speak.
A true test of whether "liberal-bias" exists in the media would be whether the mainstream media chooses to cover this issue of the Bush Administration's ongoing failure to release the documents. I think also a failure to report the Downing Street memo seriously trashes the Right's liberal bias myth.
Funny, I seem to recall every single piece of trivia dragged out by the Republicans on Whitewater received extensive mainstream coverage. Yet the media yawns at the much more telling Guckert and the Downing Street issues. Go figure.

1:23 PM  
Anonymous John Bambenek said...

My comment is, who cares? I can get a press pass, you can get a press pass. They aren't hard to get. I never understood why this was big news...

2:18 PM  
Anonymous joe said...

But Maureen Dowd can't get a press pass???

If you don't understand why this is important, then you probably didn't read the blog post.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the first comment -- the mainstream press hasn't covered this story, except for the "Gannon has a gay escort site" angle.

It's amazing that a blog is the only place where this story is getting any press. Imagine the conservative reaction if this had happened on Clinton's watch.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heaven forbid that jabbs actually state the difference between Dowd and Guckert accurately. Dowd was unable to get what would be considered the more "permanent" type of press pass, while Guckert received daily passes. Don't let those little facts get in the way of a good story.

It certainly would not help your story to point out how simple the procedure is for obtaining a daily pass.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

If this is no big deal, then why won't the White House respond to the requests for documents?

I know the conservatives among us say this is no big deal. But state-sponsored journalism -- and isn't that really what Guckert was -- is a big deal. The conservatives who want to excuse Guckert are the same ones who railed against state-sponsored propaganda in other countries.

If anything, the only thing that doesn't make the Guckert story a rallying cry for conservatives is the fact that Guckert worked for a Republican organization. If Guckert worked for a liberal organization and posed as a journalist in order to interrogate McClellan, no doubt we would have heard from the conservative noise machine.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like JABBS updated the Dowd reference. Congrats on getting the clarification!

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Getting a daily pass might be easy (I don't know that it is). But using a pseudonym, especially after 9/11, is not allowed by the White House.

So it shouldn't have been easy for Guckert/Gannon to enter the White House some 200 times, including times when no press conference was scheduled.

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, it was not "state sponsored journalism". Period. It could be described as partisan, but clearly not state sponsored.

If Rather had hosted a Democratic party fundraiser ... oops! He did.

What security risk did he pose?

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What security risk did Guckert pose? if I understand the remark correctly.
By that reasoning, why not let absolutely anyone, including a 9-11 hijacker wannabe, into U.S. security meetings? As long as they can authentically fake a background, like Guckert did, open the door and let them in.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

What risk did he pose?

Are you honestly saying that you don't have a problem with people using pseudonyms as they gain access to the White House? It makes you feel good to know, in the post-9/11 world, that someone entered the White House 200 times, without the White House knowing his real name. And ... this person actually was able to ask the president a question!

C'mon. Put aside that he's a conservative and just look at the facts. This is wrong. And it deserves investigation.

You know full well that if some pal of Hillary's used a pseudonym to lob riduculous (but liberal) questions at McClellan, there would be a full-blown White House investigation, broadcast far and wide by their pals at Fox News, Rush and the rest.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

he is having an affair with someone high up in the administration.

11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can assimulate the following idea with the conservatives wish to bury the Guckert/Gannon story.
The conservatives/Republicans have provided us this week with a revealing look this week into their biased, hypocritical thought process. I think in the end it is the conservatives/Republicans who will suffer a huge credibility problem.
Please consider:
The Right demands a retraction for the mistake on the Koran toilet flushing incident made in the Newsweek story, but do not demand a retraction from the Bush administration for the WMD claims. They fault the Newsweek story for causing 17 or so deaths and causing hatred towards America through the Arab and greater world, while failing to consider how the unprovoked attack and attempted occupation of Iraq has caused untold thousands of innocent deaths and spreaded hatred towards the U.S. throughout the Arab and greater world.
They respond to British politician George Galloway for daring to defend himself and for offering his substantiated opinions on the Iraq war before the Republicans in the Senate by attacking his character, calling him "pro-terrorist" (anyone who is against the Iraq War, about 58% of the American people for that matter, are terrorists under neocon rationale), and accusing him of making a pro-Sadaam statement over 10 years ago. Never mind the U.S. supported Sadaam at the same time and made plenty of similar statements.
These reactions from the right represent the height of hypocrisy. As the case with Guckert, I would love to hear a response from the Right on these matters, since the press fails to ask such questions.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the evidence appears stacked against galloway and he clearly caught everyone by surprise (although i am not suure why since he is known as a big mouth in london)when he used the hearing as a stage for his anti american policy views. i do not believe using this guy as an example in your synopsis is smart or accurate or even credible. while i agree with you that bush has to answer for some of the WMD issues, i dont see the correlation to newsweek. you dont think newsweek should retract the story? everyone i know thinks they should, liberal or conservative. when a news organization makes an error a retraction is pretty much all that can be done as far as damage control. when a president makes enough mistakes/errors, he typically is removed via an election loss. But oops, he won the election. So, although most in america know that there are issues surrounding the intelligence wrt to the iraq war, and most these days think it may havebeen a mistake to go in, i dont see what you expect from bush---a beg for forgiveness?

i agree the republicans are hypocrates, i agree they have overrreached, congress in particular, but we have elections. there could be changes on the way in congress.....i hope so.

i just fail to see the logic in what you are trying to say.

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You obviously do not know the full story of Galloway.
He successfully sued and won $1.6 million in a libel case against parties using forged documents to make the same kind of allegations aimed at him by the Republican Senators. The case largely disproved the same allegations, even when the senators claim they have additional telling documents. Galloway claims any documents they have, which have not been disclosed publicly, are likely more in a series of forgeries.
What proof do you have that Galloway is "not credible" and automatically arousing of suspicion. Your own Right-wing bias?
If you heard Galloway's full argument, you would know he is not anti-American, rather expressing his views he can substantiate that A. he was one of a silenced minority making claims before the Iraq War that have all since all come true, that the country had no WMDs and that the country would largely resist the U.S. occupation. I would also be frustrated if no one had listened to my earlier claims which turned out to be true. and B. Human rights groups have estimated that the UN sanctions on the country has caused 1 million deaths, mostly children who starved to death. This is one aspect of the Oil for Food program the Republicans don't want you to hear. C. That criminal oil for food contracts of a U.S. company BayOil, that the U.S. government had been fully aware, far exceeded those alleged shady contracts dealings between Sadaam and France, Britain, Russia and other countries. D. That the U.S.'s true aim in Iraq is to control the country's oil supplies. E. that the Senators are guilty of spewing hypocrisy when the U.S. is guilty of setting up and supporting the Sadaam administration in the early 90s.
You appear to share in the opinion that anyone who speaks out against the War is anti-American. Heaven forbid someone tries to stop another Vietnam.
Yes, President Bush won the election but would he had if the American public knows everything they have learned since November, i.e. The Downing Street memo (which would have gotten more play if uncovered during an election season) and documented proof supporting Kerry's position that Bush allowed Osama Bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora, and the diminishing hopes of a military victory in Iraq? I think not.
I never said Newsweek should not have issued a retraction. What I did say that it is hypocritical for the Bush Administration to demand a retraction while failing to acknowledge its own more mistakes which unwittingly caused the U.S. to march off to what has become a costly and deadly war.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

again i fail to see your argument. you are listing out a series of typical anti war based arguments and i am not saying i disagree. but galloway is not being questioned about US policy. are you suggesting the US has no right to investigate since you believe the US has done wrong as well? i just dont get it. i find it laughable that you call my response right wing. i believe anyone has the right to be anti american, antiwar etc....and one does not necessarily mean the other. i did not say galloway was anti american; i said he was anti american policy which is fine. but american policy was not supposed to be the question of the day even if galloway made it so and even if you agree with him. just another attempt to twist everything into a discussion of what america has done incorrectly. what do any of your list of a-d have to do with whether or not galloway was guilty or innocent of what he is being questioned about. even if the downing memo is 100% true, the galloway questioning has nothing to do with it. your bias is shining here. i am not right wing, period.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the US supported hussein around ten years ago. did i just wake from a dream?

bush and co have alot to answer for but it appears galloway does as well. this isnt is not supposed to be a platform to make speeches about opinion on foreign policy. Galloway has every right to defend himself but i am sorry but the US did this wrong and the US did that wrong is not a defense to his actions. Meritless argument above, blogger. And I fail to see how that discussion is a right wing v left wing discussion, other than trying to make it that for purposes of this blog only.

i admit i know little about galloway but i do know from experience that he is not well thought of among brits. and these brits are also against american foreign policy and bush. so let him defend himself but lets not pretend that whether he was right or wrong about the invasion of iraq or wmds has all that much to do with what he is being investigated for.

of course the one area where it will become liberal v everyone is if thhe theory is that the neocons controlling america (an di would believe the evangelicals would dispute that) are specifically targeting anyone against them, even from other countries. that flawed logic would potentially result in targeting galloway for crimes he didnt commit....thereby explaining why galloway is being so awfully treated. but if you believe that, i suggest wearing a randy rhodes mask.

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My argument was not "meritless," rather misunderstood by the above blogger.
Galloway was justified in expressing his views before the Senate on foreign policy in Iraq to support his overriding theme: the UN Oil for Food UN problem is a smokescreen to belittle opponents to the U.S. Iraq policy, excuse U.S. wrongs in the country, as well as to cover-up the U.S. involvement in the Oil for Food problem.
The senate has a right to question Galloway just as Galloway has a right to express his views.
If Galloway had used the Senate hearing as a forum to express his heartfelt views so be it. Wake up. Politicians do this all the time.
Galloway has a lot to answer for? Does not sound like a lot to me. A bunch of allegations already afforded doubt in a related civil action.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"who cares? i can get a press pass" john, john, the guy drives around in an armored car he has f-16's on call, many many men in black suits with mac-10's under their arms, you and i get near him, sorry john.

4:59 AM  
Anonymous Lee Russ said...

It isn't THAT easy to get a pass--see http://www.augustafreepress.

And it certainly isn't usual for a daily pass to be issued day after day after day after day....

And you certainly have to wonder, did the White House know that Gannon had been turned down for a permanent pass when they kept giving him daily passes?

And you certainly have to wonder, did the White House do ANY check on the guy's background? After all, he had his come-on pictures online, he had an outstanding tax jusdgment, and even a cursory check would have established that he was a true fly-by-nighter.

And you certainly have to ask yourself (if you're me) "how did this guy make a living, when GOPUSA paid a "small stipend" he couldn't pay off the tax judgment, he seemed to have no other source of income, and yet he was able to live in D.C., one of the most expensive places in the country.?"

Nah...probably no story here at all.

10:33 AM  

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