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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/16/09

"Mr. Fitz, in your threat to sue for libel, please, either put up or shut up"

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Message Peter Lance
Seven weeks ago Patrick Fitzgerald, the most intimidating Federal prosecutor in America, sent my publisher (HarperCollins) and me a letter threatening to sue us for libel if Triple Cross, a book I wrote, critical of his anti-terrorism track record, was published.

Tuesday marked the four week anniversary of the book's pub date and although it's been out for a month, we're still waiting for his summons and complaint.

It was the fourth threat letter that Fitzgerald had sent since October 2007 and the man who'd succeeded in getting New York Times reporter Judith Miller jailed for 85 days in the CIA leak probe, was growing impatient.

"To put it plain and simple," Fitzgerald wrote, "if in fact you publish the book this month and it defames me or casts me in a false light, HarperCollins will be sued."

You could almost hear Fitzie, as his friends call him, holding his breath and stamping his feet, astonished that we had not rolled over after he issued the following demand in his first letter 20 months earlier:
"I write to demand that Harper Collins cease publication, distribution and sale of the current version of the book... issue and publish a clear and unequivocal statement acknowledging that the book contains false statements about me; refrain from publication of any updated version (and) take no steps to transfer the rights to any other person or entity to publish the book in any form."

In this initial letter, Fitzgerald included an Attachment requesting that HarperCollins "preserve" twelve separate categories of records including all "book drafts," correspondence between me and the publisher; even "records of any and all projected sales" of the book "including any and all records of profits attributable to Triple Cross."

There was even the hint of a personal vendetta. Apparently, Judith Regan, my former publisher, who'd left HarperCollins in 2006 after the scandal over the O.J. Simpson book, "If I Did It," had discussed a $1 million book deal with Fitzgerald for his memoirs.

So in that first threat letter, the U.S. Attorney demanded:

"...any documents reflecting Harper Collins estimate of the market value of my personal reputation, including, but not limited to, any documents relating to an unsolicited letter from Judith Regan, on behalf of Harper Collins, to me offering me a "seven figure" sum for the rights."

Two weeks later, on November 2nd, 2007, Mark Jackson, then attorney for HarperCollins, rejected Fitzgerald's libel claim and called Triple Cross "an important work of investigative journalism."

But the man The Washington Post once called a "relentless" prosecutor was undaunted. On November 16th, Fitzie send a second letter; this one amounting to 16 pages. And, as if to remind us who we were dealing with, each page bore a time stamp showing that it was faxed from the office of the "U.S. Attorney Chicago."

In the June 8th edition of Newsweek, when Michael Isikoff, broke the story of Fitzgerald's campaign to kill the book, he quoted the Chicago U.S. attorney as saying that he was "not aware" that the time stamp would be visible. But that's a difficult story to swallow from the man Vanity Fair described as having a "mainframe-computer brain," in their fawning 2006 tribute, "Mr. Fitz Goes to Washington."


If you go to my website: and download the 32 pages of threat letters, they chronicle an almost obsessive effort by Fitzgerald to pulp the book.

In his third letter sent on September 22nd, 2008 Fitzgerald actually used the word "demand," twice in the same sentence: "I write to demand immediate compliance with my demands of October, 2007."

In his fourth letter sent June 2nd, 2009 Fitzgerald described the entire book as "a deliberate lie masquerading as the truth."

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Peter Lance is a five-time Emmy-winning investigative reporter now working as a screenwriter and novelist. With a Masters Degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a J.D. from Fordham School of Law, Lance spent the first 15 (more...)
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"Mr. Fitz, in your threat to sue for libel, please, either put up or shut up"

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