Holy Libel Suit

Terrorism Expert Takes on His Critics

Sugg stands by his stories, saying that he reported what he knew at the time, sought Emerson's comment, and has updated the record as new information became available. He says that because Emerson holds himself up to be a terrorism expert, he is what is known as a "vortex public figure," whose credibility is fair game for comment.

Sugg's lawyer, David Snyder, suggests that "the real purpose of the lawsuit is not to recover damages, but rather to chill any comment about Emerson's status as a reliable source, and to deter further reporting about that." Snyder notes that Emerson is trying to use the reporter's confidentiality privilege as a sword to obtain AP testimony, at the same time using it as a shield to protect his own confidential sources.

Cole's lawyer, Patricia Anderson, doesn't take Emerson seriously. Says Anderson, "A lot of times people file these suits just so they can tell their friends at cocktail parties, 'He said that about me, but I sued him!' " Anderson understands that Emerson "felt he was due more credit than [the AP was] willing to give. But this is a free country, and journalists get to make those decisions, not judges or juries."

Horowitz calls his adversaries' parries "a smoke screen" and vows to prevail, although he is only charging a "friend's rate," if that. "If people actually believe the allegations [about Emerson]," he says, "those are as serious as can be. He passed off his own material as government documents, and lied in his testimony to Congress? We can't let that go by."


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