The spy whose secret job was used as a weapon in the inside-the-Beltway spin zone went public. Valerie Plame, wife of diplomat and Vice-Presidential bete noire Joseph Wilson, appeared on Capitol Hill to castigate the White Hosue and State Department for recklessly blowing her cover. Plame's testimony was NBC's lead--ABC led with a late winter storm; CBS with the latest twist in the firing of those federal prosecutors--and the Story of the Day.     
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video thumbnailNBCCIA undercover agent's name leakedFormer spy protests treatment at House hearingsChip ReidCapitol Hill
video thumbnailCBSJustice Department fires eight US AttorneysOusted prosecutors had positive job evaluationsJim AxelrodWhite House
video thumbnailNBCJustice Department fires eight US AttorneysKey lines of Congressional inquiry outlinedPete WilliamsWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCPakistan politics: President Musharraf protestedChief Justice ousted, violent police crackdownAndrea MitchellState Department
video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesUSArmy helicopter brigade added to build-upJonathan KarlPentagon
video thumbnailABCVenezuela-US frictions: Presidential insultsPresident Chavez apologizes to President BushBarbara WaltersVenezuela
video thumbnailNBCICE border controls along Mexico lineAgents shoot unarmed drug smuggler, imprisonedMark PotterTexas
video thumbnailABC
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Winter weatherLate season storm disrupts east coast flightsLisa StarkWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSPhysicians' quality of patient care scrutinizedBook blasts doctors' diagnostic listening skillsKatie CouricNew York
video thumbnailABCBestselling self-help book The Secret explainedModern New Age version of positive thinkingDan HarrisNew York
SPY COMES IN FROM THE COLD The spy whose secret job was used as a weapon in the inside-the-Beltway spin zone went public. Valerie Plame, wife of diplomat and Vice-Presidential bete noire Joseph Wilson, appeared on Capitol Hill to castigate the White Hosue and State Department for recklessly blowing her cover. Plame's testimony was NBC's lead--ABC led with a late winter storm; CBS with the latest twist in the firing of those federal prosecutors--and the Story of the Day.

Plame represented the only story that warranted assignment by a correspondent on all three networks. But, besides being able to hear her speak for herself four years after attracting ink, there was not much new to report. The coverage consisted mostly of a rehash of the many-times-retold background to the perjury conviction of Lewis Libby, the Vice President's former Chief of Staff.

CBS' Gloria Borger called her "Washington's own mystery woman--notorious and glamorous" and ABC's David Kerley (subscription required) saw "the former spy in designer clothes" enter "to a chorus of clicking cameras." Plame has signed a $1m book deal and will be the subject of a Hollywood movie, Kerley added. Sure, there were human interest tidbits--Plame was the mother of twin toddlers…she did not want her husband to leave for Niger…she votes Democratic…she did not have much seniority in the CIA--but there was little of substance. "She always knew she might be exposed by a foreign enemy," noted NBC's Chip Reid, but no reporter detailed what the actual undercover weapons work was that her own government's loose lips had jeopardized.

POOR PERFORMANCE To lead off CBS' newscast, Jim Axelrod's headline, from unnamed sources, was that "it is now inevitable" that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will be fired. But he offered little more detail and the bulk of his story reverted to the details of the firing of the eight US Attorneys. Axelrod obtained Justice Department performance reviews for some of them: "effective and well regarded"…"very competent and highly regarded"…"effective manager and respected leader." CBS anchor Katie Couric (no link) interviewed David Iglesias from New Mexico, who revealed that he asked the Justice Department for job references even after he had been let go: if his dismissal had really been based on performance "they would have not agreed to write a letter on my behalf."

NBC's Pete Williams listed the three main lines of inquiry that Congress will pursue when it holds hearings on the firings. Does it matter who first suggested that the prosecutors should be fired? The Bush Administration says No--"because US Attorneys are political employees." Has Congress been misled? "Even President George Bush says the answer to that is Yes." Were the firings political interference in the judicial process? Gonzales says No--they were "bad administrators or failed to follow objectives." ABC offered no update on the story.

POLICE ATTACK TV JOURNALISTS There was no consensus on overseas news. CBS did not assign a single reporter to foreign policy or international developments. NBC was the only network to cover the political crisis in Pakistan, where police attacked protestors in Islamabad after President Pervez Musharraf ordered the arrest of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. NBC bureau chief Carol Grisanti told Andrea Mitchell that the police "lost control" and tear-gassed the crowd indiscriminately. They then vandalized the studios of GEO-TV, halting the station's transmission of its exclusive coverage of the protests. Mitchell noted that the Bush Administration has "strong links" to Musharraf, whose "iron-fisted reign is facing its greatest challenge yet."

PLAYING BALL ABC chose Iraq for its major international hotspot. The so-called surge of US troop reinforcements is growing ever larger: "While commanders in Iraq talk about more troops and more time, the political debate at home is moving in the opposite direction," Jonathan Karl commented from the Pentagon as Gen David Petraeus put in his latest request--for an army helicopter brigade of Blackhawks, Chinooks, Apaches.

And from the western hemisphere, ABC aired a preview of Barbara Walters' interview for 20/20 with Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela. Walters asked about Chavez' insults towards Bush: "a devil, a donkey, a drunk, a liar, a coward, a murderer." Chavez apologized for his excesses: "Maybe in the future we could even play baseball…Personally speaking I am not an enemy of his. I am more like an opponent."

PAIN IN THE BUTT Along the southern border in Texas, NBC's Mark Potter showed us the crime scene where a marijuana smuggler was shot in the buttocks in 2005 by the Border Patrol as he fled south into Mexico. A pair of agents, Jose Compeon and Ignacio Ramos, will serve at least ten years in prison for firing at the unarmed man. Potter summarized the prosecution case: the smuggler ran away after "Compeon tried to hit him with the butt of his shotgun" as he surrendered. Compeon claimed he shot in self-defense. Ramos called it the "most painful thing I had to do"--not shooting the fugitive but informing his child that he was headed for the penitentiary. Potter noted that 90 members of Congress have petitioned the President to pardon the two agents, including Republican Presidential candidate Duncan Hunter: "This is a severe injustice," Hunter argued. "The punishment did not fit the actions."

SAINTS ALIVE ABC's lead story was filed by Lisa Stark (subscription required) from Reagan National Airport in Washington DC. Recalling the snow delays on St Valentine's Day, Stark observed that airlines did not want sleet and ice to disrupt their schedules on St Patrick's Day too. jetBlue Airlines was "trying to avoid a repeat of last month's meltdown." Either solution--stranding flights as snow closes in or precautionary cancelations in advance--is a "no win situation." NBC's Ron Allen filed from the snow in Boston, reassuring us that "New England has little to complain about--easy for me to say--as Boston is some two-and-a-half feet below normal snowfall this winter." CBS only mentioned the storm in passing.

WORRIES AND SECRETS For our weekend reading pleasure, CBS' Couric recommended How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman, a professor at the Harvard School of Medicine. It is an insider's look into doctor-patient miscommunication: how physicians pay little attention, listening on average for only 18 seconds to patients describing their symptoms. That leads to misdiagnosis of the ailments of at least 15% of patients, especially the complaints of middle-aged women. "Their symptoms are attributed, snap judgment, to stress, anxiety and menopause," Dr Groopman generalized. Couric offered three key tips: ask about alternate diagnoses; ask about multiple diagnoses; and detail one's greatest worries.

For ABC's A Closer Look, Dan Harris warned readers against getting carried away by the hype around The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The bestselling self-help formula is a hit on daytime TV's Oprah but not so much on the nightly news. Last month, Bill Whitaker examined the same phenomenon for CBS and concluded that The Secret amounted to a hyped New Age version of The Power of Positive Thinking.

Harris was even less enthused about The Secret's message, which is known as The Law of Attraction: "You can get everything you want--health, wealth, love--simply by thinking it." Harris thought about the danger that thinking might replace medicine or that one might feel guilty when bad things happen because one had failed to think hard enough. Byrne did not grant him an interview.

MENTIONED IN PASSING The network newscasts do not assign correspondents to all of the news of the day. If Tyndall Report readers come across videostreamed reports online of stories that were mentioned only in passing, post the link in comments for us to check out.

Today's examples: consumer inflation is accelerating slightly…tainted pet food has made both cats and dogs sick and is being recalled…an inquest in England concluded that a US airstrike that killed a British soldier in Iraq was "criminal and entirely unavoidable."