New Spitzer and Plame Films Prompt Questions About DOJ

Client 9Two movies scheduled released last week dramatize the nefarious motives within official circles that destroyed the careers of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and CIA covert agent Valerie Plame ─  thereby curtailing also their ability to help the country.

Such developments prompt our Justice Integrity Project to launch a news round-up, whose first installments began this month. These roundups complement our in-depth case studies, investigative reports and archives. Quite simply, far too much news of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct is occurring. We need to report more of it more promptly, and bring you more news of nationwide reform efforts.

JIP is a non-partisan advocate for justice, not simply a research group. Therefore, your participation is not simply welcome, but vital.

Help us with news leads, ideas for presentations here on our site, and in effective follow-up in the nation’s capital and around the country. We’re improving our two-way communications capabilities but in the meantime welcome ideas through conventional email that reaches me via admin (at) justice-integrity.org. The Spitzer case the documentary is Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer. A trailer for the movie is on YouTube.  Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday wrote Nov. 5 that the film “sheds new conspiratorial light on the story of how the former New York governor was discovered hiring prostitutes.” Her clever, near-oxymoron term “conspiratorial light” suggests how the movie provides substance to claims that the mainstream has previously derided. Specifically, investigative bloggers without access to corporate-owned media have long reported that Spitzer’s enemies targeted the Democrat for professional annihilation. Spitzer’s white-collar crime crusades as New York’s attorney general and governor antagonized powerful suspects in financial, environmental and other skullduggery.

Spitzer’s targets responded, according to these reports, by using his penchant for prostitutes to start a politically motivated federal investigation that drove him from office in disgrace. The governor’s downfall thus provides a dramatic warning to other public officials who might be inclined to probe the powerful despite the skeletons in the closet that so many of them have, just as many in the public suspect.

Many insiders can benefit from such a process of selectively exposing sex scandals. Most important, of course, would be powerful criminal suspects. Beneficiaries also include the suspects’ behind-the-scenes researchers, who compile reports used to intimidate many in public life. Here’s how it works: Such investigations were once undertaken primarily by political opposition researchers during election seasons and by news reporters working year-round, albeit sporadically and under-funded. But the scandals have far more impact when handled by hit artists who can draw on vast financial resources for their probes and use solid official connections to publicize those findings they decide to release.

The financially strapped and easily intimidated mainstream media these days defer to those same powerhouses. For those reasons and the age-old tabloid traditions, most news accounts focused on Spitzer's fall, many illustrated with photos of his voluptuous young tart. She met Spitzer at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel before the Bush DOJ exposed his hypocrisy in accusing Wall Street of misconduct while also paying for sex.

Spitzer, never charged with a crime, resigned as governor in disgrace. The Post review of the movie says:

But filmmaker Alex Gibney makes a strong case in “Client 9” that Spitzer’s career implosion was, if not engineered, than (sic) at least exponentially accelerated by his powerful corporate and political enemies, including the consultant and lobbyist Roger Stone, who along with Rove claims status in Republican circles as a legendary knife-fighter.

With terrorism and the impending financial meltdown swirling, Gibney suggests, the Justice Department’s decision to go after a “small-time prostitution ring” was dubious at best, suspicious at worst.

While Stone was gleefully helping the feds take Spitzer own, millions of American citizens watching their savings, homes and jobs disappear.

The Post review, available here, also covers Fair Game, which opens Nov. 12 in the city. The film “dramatizes events of 2003, when CIA officer Valerie Plame was outed after her husband, Joseph C. Wilson, criticized the invasion of Iraq.” The Post continued:

Constructed as taut, skillfully calibrated thrillers, both Client 9 and Fair Game portray the classic political hit job, not in term of sharpshooters or high-tech rifles, but in its postmodern form: controlling the narrative and deploying it for maximum personal and political damage.

Federal prosecutors examined potential lawbreaking by White House personnel at the highest levels, with complicity by leading news reporters.  The conventional news narrative was that tough, fearless prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald relentlessly sought the truth, but was resisted by courageous reporters protecting their sources in the tradition of the First Amendment.

That’s far from the case, as indicated by Plame’s account in her autobiography, also entitled, Game, and many other accounts, including the new film.  Its trailer is here.

UPDATE: The Washington Post published, "Fair Game' gets some things about the Valerie Plame case right, some wrong," by Walter Pincus and Richard Leiby rating the accuracy of the movie. The conclusion, as reflected in the subhead, was, "Film dramatizationof the Iraq war CIA leak case takes liberties but gets a whole bunch right, too."  The actual article was somewhat more positive than the headline, which is a small triumph for the filmmakers for two reasons. First, the Post has been far from sympathetic to Plame and the related concept of holding accountable in the case Washington insiders, including high-level news reporters. Second, almost any Hollywood movie twists a real-life situation to try to build box office.

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As part of today’s news round-up, we’ll note that Nov. 2 elections returned for another six-year term Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vermont). Also, Republican Lamar Smith of Texas, a 1969 classmate of future President George W. Bush at Yale College, is now in line to succeed Democrat John Conyers of Michigan as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.  Conyers, 81 and with his wife Monica imprisoned on federal bribery charges, has backed away from aggressive oversight over the Justice Department in recent years. We’ll provide in-depth analysis of justice-related election results in our next news report.

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