Lies, damn lies and dwindling sources

Jason Leopold is back on Truthout trying to peddle his "Rove is indicted" story from a month ago.

The often-disgraced and discounted "journalist" who worked his way down the food chain until he landed at Truthout is still claiming his indictment story is correct and says it may be a secret indictment that currently sits in the federal court database as "Sealed vs. Sealed." 

Writes Leopold:

The case number is "06 cr 128." On the federal court’s electronic database, "06 cr 128" is listed along with a succinct summary: "No further information is available."

Still, legal experts watching the Plame-Wilson investigation have been paying particularly close attention to Sealed vs. Sealed since the Karl Rove indictment story was published.

The legal scholars have said that a federal prosecutor can keep an indictment under seal for weeks or months – something that is commonplace in high-profile criminal cases – especially if an investigation, such as the CIA leak probe, is ongoing.

When told about the Sealed vs. Sealed indictment filed in US District Court, the legal experts became intrigued about the case because they say that most federal criminal indictments are filed under US vs. Sealed and that they rarely come across federal criminal indictments titled Sealed vs. Sealed, which to them suggests the prosecutor felt it necessary to add an extra layer of secrecy to an indictment to keep it out of public view.

"The question here is that nobody who I have spoken to – top criminal attorneys, law professors, etc. – is aware of the left part of the case title having been sealed," said one former federal criminal attorney. "That the right-hand side is sealed is almost pro-forma. But, what is not known is whether the US Attorney can seal the left hand part of the case title on his own."

An even bigger question is why Leopold could not find one single "legal expert" willing to go on the record on this. We can see using unnamed sources talking about what is happening inside the grand jury but unnamed "legal experts" who have nothing to lose commenting about a case? Something smells here.

Truthout’s "executive director," Marc Ash keeps up his end of the ever-changing claims on the story by now saying they have "one credible" source on the Rove indictment story.

Once again we will attempt to clearly separate what we know from what we believe – and why. What we know will be based on official records and official statements. What we believe will be based on single source information and general background information obtained from experts. The conclusions we arrive at should be considered carefully, but not taken as statements of fact, per se.

Hmmm. A couple of week ago, Ash claimed "three independent sources" for the story. On May 18, he said:

We can now report, however, that we have additional, independent sources that refute those denials by Corallo and Luskin. While we had only our own sources to work with in the beginning, additional sources have now come forward and offered corroboration to us.

Three days earlier, the claim was:

In short, we had two sources close to the Fitzgerald investigation who were explicit about the information that we published, and a former high-ranking state department official who reported communication with a source who had "direct knowledge" of the meeting at Patton Boggs. In both instances, substantial detail was provided and matched.

Tim Grieve at Salon’s War room is, like us, skeptical of the latest version of events:

Leopold proceeds to quote a "former federal criminal attorney" as saying: "The question here is that nobody who I have spoken to — top criminal attorneys, law professors, etc. — is aware of the left part of the case title having been sealed."

Oh, really?

We checked the U.S. District Court’s database this morning. Approximately 158 criminal cases have been filed since the beginning of the year, and approximately 31 of them — or one out of every five — have been styled "Sealed v. Sealed." And each and every one of these "Sealed v. Sealed" cases contains exactly the same description — "Case is not available to the public" — as the one provided for 1-06-cr-128, the case that Leopold suggests may be Rove’s.

We asked Truthout’s Marc Ash whether he was aware that 30 other 2006 cases carry the "Sealed v. Sealed" designation and whether the existence of such cases doesn’t undercut Leopold’s latest story. "Well, I think we’re into semantics," he said in an e-mail response. "We say ‘unusual,’ you say ‘about one out of every five.’ Obviously we’ve taken a keen interest in ’06 cr 128.’"

Ash ends his latest revision of history with this:

One negative consequence of the Rove indictment firestorm has been that so much of what we cover that is so important to the community has been pushed into the background. There’s a war going on, the right to vote is in doubt, democracy itself is under attack. Let’s work together to keep our focus.

In the beginning, we were willing to give Truthout the benefit of the doubt on this story but the statute of limitations has long since run out. They blew the story and compounded the crime by refusing to admit they were wrong and mostly had by a tarnished writer with a checkered past.

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