Jeff Gannon: Investigation

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There is a widening call for an Investigation into "Jeff Gannon", a.k.a. James Dale Guckert, the fake White House "correspondent" working for the pseudo news organization Talon News, which is affiliated with GOPUSA, a right-wing site owned by Texas-based Republican activist Bobby Eberle.

Focus: Gannon had access to the White House and was admitted to the White House press briefing room on day press passes for almost two years. He was recognized for editorializing before asking "softball" questions of the White House press staff and, even on occasion, of President George W. Bush, to break up lines of aggressive questioning by legitimate reporters, thereby assisting the staff in controlling press conferences.

Issues & Actions

  • How did Gannon get a White House press pass two months before his supposed publication even existed? Bush Press Secretary Scott McClellan admitted the White House gave Gannon his first day press pass in February 2003. The problem: His 'publication,' Talon News, didn't exist until April 2003.
  • By what criteria did the White House evaluate Talon News? Talon News is the brainchild of a Republican activist from Texas, Bobby Eberle. Eberle, who runs the aptly named 'GOPUSA', told the New York Times he created Talon News because he wanted to quietly construct a news service with a conservative slant: 'if someone were to see 'GOPUSA,' there's an instant built-in bias there.' In denying Gannon a pass, the congressional press office pointed out Gannon was unable to show that 'Talon News has any paid subscribers.' They also found that while actual working reporters can show their principal income comes from reporting stories for publication in actual news services, Talon's 'paying a single reporter a 'stipend' does not meet the intent of the rule.' As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank put it, Gannon was 'representing a phony media company that doesn't really have any such thing as circulation or readership.'
  • How long can journalists gain access to the White House without an FBI background check? Most White House journalists have what is called a 'hard pass,' a permanent pass obtained after undergoing a rigorous FBI background check. Gannon skipped over that step. Instead, as Salon's Eric Boehlert explains, 'the White House waved him into press briefings for nearly two years using what's called a day pass.' If the background check is necessary for reporters with extended access to the White House, why were the rules circumvented for Gannon? Is there a limit for how long a reporter can slide on 'day' passes, as Gannon did for years?
  • How did Gannon get a White House press pass under a fake name? Jeff Gannon's real name is James Guckert. Although all applications for White House press passes are supposed to be thoroughly vetted, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said he was unaware that Gannon was using an alias. His predecessor, Ari Fleischer, also pleads ignorance. Gannon signed in to the White House each day as 'Jeff Guckert,' a name which did not match his pass – yet no one seemed to thing that was strange. In fact, no one at the White House seems overly concerned at what amounts to a stunning national security breach.
  • What is Gannon's connection to the Valerie Plame case? Jeff Gannon has been interviewed by FBI agents who are investigating another security breach in the White House, namely, the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame's name to the press. So far, Gannon has been coy about whether he saw a secret document about the case. Today he says he never really saw the memo, he'd only read about it in the Wall Street Journal.

Reaction & Inquiry

  • 2 March 2005: "House Democrats say they will force a vote in the House Judiciary Committee to put the Republican majority on the record with regards to investigating discredited White House correspondent Jeff Gannon who allegedly had access to confidential information, including a memorandum naming CIA operative Valerie Plame." The Raw Story.
  • 25 February 2005: "Democratic senators Durbin, Kennedy, Kerry, Lautenberg, and Reid issued a letter Friday to President Bush calling for a full and transparent investigation into the discredited White House reporter writing under the pseudonym Jeff Gannon." The Raw Story.
  • 24 February 2005: "Biden declines to sign letter for Gannon inquiry, while Kerry signs," according to John Byrne's The Raw Story. Dispite his earlier stance that "every major network in the country" should be investigating the Gannon security breach in the White House, Joseph Biden's press secretary Chip Unruh now says 1) Biden didn't have enough time to "carefully consider the letter"; 2) "We don't sign every letter that comes through our office"; and 3) "such a probe would never occur with Republicans in control of the House and the Senate."
According to John Kerry's press secretary April Boyd, Kerry will be signing: "'There's more screening to get into a Bush for President rally than the White House press room,' Boyd added. 'A Girl Scout troop can't even go on a public tour of the White House, but a Republican Party right wing activist of sketchy origins got daily West Wing access? This latest scandal makes Armstrong Williams look like a saint by comparison.'"
Senator Ted Kennedy's "communications director Laura Capps said Kennedy will sign as well."
"Today, Reps. John Conyers, Jr. (Ranking Member, House Judiciary Committee) and Louise Slaughter (Ranking Member, House Rules Committee) have asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to include Jeff Gannon/James Guckert in an investigation of 'whether the Administration violated the ban on prepackaged news stories by siphoning print stories to James D. Guckert, also known as 'Jeff Gannon'."
"And just as good," he writes, "Conyers and Slaughter wrote to US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who is investigating the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, today letting him know that he might want to subpoena Gannon's daily diary, the existence of which became known yesterday, thanks to Editor & Publisher."
"Guckert has been interviewed by FBI agents on the Valerie Plame case and given conflicting signals, over many months, concerning whether he saw a secret document or merely knew about it from other sources.
"Conyers and Slaughter indicated in their letter that Guckert's journal might contain information of value to the Plame investigation if, in fact, Guckert had been given some sort of access to documents related to the Plame leaks."
"'It now appears that Mr. Guckert memorialized his experiences at the White House,' the letter added, noting Guckert's comments to E&P that he might turn the journal into a book. 'It would be unfortunate if Mr. Guckert published information that would be useful to your investigation, such as the identity of the person who gave him the memo, without your office having the benefit of its contents.'"
  • 23 February 2005: "Press Impostor. At the White House, don't duck the real questions," Detroit Free Press: "How is it that an administration that screened thousands of people for attendance at Bush campaign rallies repeatedly let a fake reporter into the sanctorum of the White House pressroom under a false name? Who was running that background check? How could a president who declares that national security is his prime concern be so ill served for nearly two years by his own security detail?"
A letter, leaked to The Raw Story, issued by Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) is "secretly circulating ... calling for other senators to join a call for investigation into discredited White House reporter Jeff Gannon." The letter calls on President Bush to "'order a full inquiry' into how a 'fake' journalist working for a 'sham' news organization got access to the President."
The letter followed a call by Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) for the White House "to turn over all documentation relating to Gannon's credentialing."