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Democrats Want Investigation of Reporter Using Fake Name
NY Times
Published: February 11, 2005

Two Democrats in Congress are pressing for investigations into how a Washington reporter who used a pseudonym managed to gain access to the White House and had access to classified documents that named Valerie Plame as a C.I.A. operative.

The Democrats, Representatives John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Louise M. Slaughter from Rochester, wrote yesterday to Patrick Fitzgerald, the independent prosecutor appointed in the Plame case, seeking an investigation into how the reporter, James D. Guckert, who used the name Jeff Gannon, had access to classified documents that revealed the identity of Ms. Plame.

Until Wednesday when he resigned, Mr. Guckert worked for TalonNews.com, a Web site operated by Robert Eberle, a Texas Republican. Mr. Guckert said in a March 2004 interview with his own news service, in which he was referred to as Mr. Gannon, that the classified document had been "easily accessible." The two Democrats questioned how a person with "dubious qualifications" had access to such a document. The Democrats also wrote to the Secret Service seeking an explanation of how someone using a pseudonym was cleared to enter the White House daily press briefings as well as a presidential news conference last month. They said in their letter that allowing such a person in "appears to deviate significantly from heightened security measures you have employed recently."

Mr. Guckert resigned from Talon saying he had been harassed by liberals on the Internet. Bloggers grew suspicious of him after President Bush called on him at the news conference and the reporter suggested that Democrats had "divorced themselves from reality." Spearheaded by a Web site called Media Matters For America, the bloggers discredited him.

Mr. Guckert told CNN yesterday that he had been receiving threats and hate mail. He said he used the pseudonym Gannon because it was "easier to pronounce and remember."

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, told reporters yesterday that Mr. Bush did not know who Mr. Guckert was. Mr. McClellan said that Mr. Guckert entered the White House under his real name and "like anyone else, showed that he was representing a news organization that published regularly, and so he was cleared two years ago to receive daily passes, just like many others are."

Mr. Guckert was denied credentials to cover Capitol Hill, where press gallery workers said that his application indicated Talon was not his main source of income and that they could not verify its legitimacy.

Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Ms. Slaughter, said: "This is a guy who could not get credentialed by the House or the Senate press galleries, and yet managed to get into the White House and question the president" and have access to a top-secret document.

He added: "To imply he has no connection to the White House is just not credible."