Journalism film series opens with CIA leak movie
School of Communication Journalist-in-Residence Nick Clooney, an attorney and an SOC professor discussed releasing names of confidential sources and the 2003 Valerie Plame-CIA leak grand jury investigation at AU's Reel Journalism series opener on Monday.
The Greenberg Theater event featured a screening of "Nothing but the Truth," a film inspired by the 2003 investigation. It focuses on the reporter's refusal to name the source and her stint in jail.
The film, directed by Rod Lurie, was not released in theaters but went straight to distribution due to bankruptcy, according to attorney Floyd Abrams.
"There may be more people in this room, about to see the movie, than have ever seen it in this country," Abrams said.
Abrams, who represented The New York Times and Judith Miller in the investigation, portrayed a district court judge in the movie.
In the film, a reporter (Kate Beckinsale) reveals the identity of an undercover CIA agent (Vera Farmiga), prompting a federal investigation. The reporter refuses to name her source and is cited for contempt of court by Abrams' character, spending nearly a year in jail.
The inspiration came from Plame, a former CIA operative identified in an article by syndicated columnist Robert Novak in 2003. He cited unidentified sources in his column. It is against federal law to deliberately disclose a CIA agent's identity, and the Justice Department began an investigation. Miller was subpoenaed, despite the fact that she never wrote a story on Plame. She refused to divulge her sources and was jailed for contempt for 12 weeks.
But the film isn't really about the reporter Judith Miller, Abrams said.
"We have a movie and we have, in real life, a woman who was a reporter who had issues relating to confidential sources and who wrote about someone ... issues arose about someone who was in the CIA," he said. "There's similarity in all that, but everything else is different."
The film was the first of this season's Reel Journalism series with Nick Clooney, sponsored by SOC, the Newseum and the AU Office of Alumni Programs.
Clooney led the discussion between Abrams and John Watson, an associate SOC professor.
"The level of moral fortitude displayed here is not as common as we'd like to think," Watson said. "I think I would have crumbled quite early."
Audience member and SOC graduate Rachel Levitin said she would never give up her source.
"No, not a chance," she said. "That, in a nutshell, is journalistic integrity."
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