Matt Cooper Prison Movies and Other ASME Tales

You Sexy First Amendment Guy YouAnother missive from the humid hothouse of journalist-on-journalist love. This afternoon's entertainment was a Q&A between the cosy duo of Time's Matt Cooper and Time's Jim Kelly. Kelly, Time's editor, kicked things off with a recap of the past 28 months, from the Cooper's "double super secret background" convo with Karl Rove (in which Rove mentioned, sans name, that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA) to Judith Miller's aspen-turning move in yesterday's New York Times. Summing up, Kelly turned to Cooper and asked: "So do you have any idea what the case is about?"


Restrained titters.

Cooper: "Well, yes." He said this whole thing is about the White House "outing a covert CIA agent as punishment" for going against the administration.

Then he told us some things we didn't know, and they are after the jump.

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is as described, serious and a "straight-shooter," but "I think he has touches of humor." When Cooper was testifying about his email to his editors that dubbed the conversation "super double secret background," he admitted to Fitzgerald, "it's not a technical term...it's from Animal House." And Fitzgerald said, "Dean Wormer, right?" Cooper summed up: "He's the kind of guy who, if he wasn't trying to put journalists in jail, reporters would love." So true of so many people.

When it looked like he might go to the pokey, he studied up. "I watched Oz, The Shawshank Redemption, Papillion... My wife would say, 'You're watching prison movies again?' And I said, 'I need to know what's going on! What if I'm in a gang with Sandy Berger? The 'Sons of Zion'?'"

Kelly asked if Cooper wished he had worked out a deal with Rove in summer of 2004. "Yes."

However, at the time, "I doubted that he even would remember the conversation, since it was so brief." Kelly emphasized that the subpoena they didn't respond to also seemed like a "fishing expedition."

Cooper admitted that his wife's -- Dem strategist Mandy Grunwald -- First Amendment-waving willingness to have him go to jail, "made me reexamine my marriage." [Laughter]

As for what the experience of being in front of the grand jury, Cooper said that he was nervous because "I don't even get library fines." But that Fitzgerald was helpful, and told him, "Don't let me push you... if you're not sure about something, don't say you are." (This may shed some light on Miller's faulty memory...)

Speaking of not being sure about things, Cooper said he read Miller's piece from Sunday "several times...I found it hard to follow and I've been in the middle of it for two years. There's still a lot of questions."

He took questions from the audience, which were a little sparse, probably because everyone wanted to get out and get snorkling. But there was a question on the need for a federal shield law -- and whether it should take into account government officials using leaks to settle scores or spread false accusations. "I don't know if you can create legislation that can distinguish between 'good leaks' and 'bad leaks,'" which is a good point. Matt clearly favors a shield law of some kind. Pointing out that 49 states have such protections while the federal level doesn't, Cooper said, "It's not you think, 'Gee, I'd really like to be in court in Mobile, Alabama.'"

And that about wrapped things up, though Kelly got off a final zinger: "If you hear anything else about the case, call me, don't email me."

Funny because it's true!

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