Little Guys Score a Big Scoop

The New York Sun and National Journal got a huge scoop Thursday about the Libby case -- and the big boys got egg on their faces.

In the latest unpredictable twist to the messy Valerie Plame narrative, a certain New York broadsheet scooped its competitors yesterday morning by reporting that the CIA leak probe, which had previously cost I. Lewis Libby his job and enveloped Vice President Dick Cheney in scrutiny, has now touched someone even higher: President Bush.

“Bush Authorized Leak to Times, Libby Told Grand Jury,” read the online article, posted early Thursday, reporting that Libby “testified to a grand jury that he gave information from a closely-guarded ‘National Intelligence Estimate’ on Iraq to a New York Times reporter in 2003 with the specific permission of President Bush, according to a new court filing from the special prosecutor in the case.”

So which New York newspaper bested the behemoths of print journalism as it broke the story yesterday? Not the Times — former employer of Judith Miller, the reporter at the center of the case who caused so much angst and drama last year — but the much smaller New York Sun.

Showing commendable alertness, the Sun and then National Journal quickly moved to comprehensively report the rather explosive news contained within Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s latest court filing late Wednesday — and scored a clear and important scoop over the big boys of print journalism, including the Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal. (The Smoking Gun also posted a full filing yesterday morning.)

Given that the story drew on a publicly available court filing made by Fitzgerald and given the political stakes — now raised even higher — the big guys don’t have much of an excuse for coming in second on this one.

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Edward B. Colby was a writer at CJR Daily.