Gannon won't give clear answer on whether he's seen classified memo on Wilson-Plame case

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Former Talon News Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent Jeff Gannon (aka James D. Guckert) told Editor & Publisher in a February 11 article that he "never said" he "had ... or had seen" a classified memo written by a State Department official and purportedly summarizing a meeting in which former clandestine CIA operative Valerie Plame allegedly suggested that her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, be sent to Niger to investigate reports that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the west African nation. But in previous interviews, Gannon has left a different impression.

The Editor & Publisher article stated that Gannon "threw into question media accounts suggesting that he had seen a classified CIA document critical to the Plame case, saying he had made references to the 'internal memo,' but adding, 'I never said I had it or had seen it.' But when asked if he had in fact seen it, he declined to say."

Gannon originally referenced the memo in an interview with Wilson, which Talon News posted on its website on October 28, 2003 (no longer available on TalonNews.com). Gannon asked Wilson about the memo and appeared familiar with its contents:

An internal government memo prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel details a meeting in early 2002 where your wife, a member of the agency for clandestine service working on Iraqi weapons issues, suggested that you could be sent to investigate the reports. Do you dispute that?

Similarly, on March 9, 2004, a Talon News article (no longer available on TalonNews.com) reported that its own reporter, Gannon, had been "targeted" by the Justice Department's investigation of the leak of Plame's clandestine identity in July 2003. The article quoted Gannon: "I will tell you that the information did not come from inside the administration. ... For something that is supposed to be classified, it seems that this document is easily accessible."

Most recently, on the February 11 edition of CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, Gannon strongly suggested he had seen the memo in his explanation of why Justice Department officials had interviewed him as part of the leak investigation:

GANNON: And the FBI did come to interview me. They were interested in where -- how I knew or received a copy of a confidential CIA memo that said that Valerie Plame suggested that Joe Wilson be sent on this mission, something that everybody -- they have all vigorously denied but is, in effect, true.

BLITZER: So they didn't make you go testify before the grand jury?

GANNON: No.

BLITZER: Do you have to reveal how you got that memo?

GANNON: No.

BLITZER: They didn't ask you?

GANNON: Well, the FBI kept asking. I said, well, look, I'm a journalist, I can't --

BLITZER: You didn't tell them?

GANNON: Yes. Can't divulge that. And they accepted that, and I've never been asked again.

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