Thursday, July 07, 2005

So much for a free press

I've been patiently waiting for a story from a reputable newspaper on the Valerie Plame controvery that discusses exactly who the source of the leaks are. The blogosphere has been alive for a while with stories about Karl Rove being the mastermind protected by Judith Miller, which would explain why her withholding of information is serious enough that she's going to jail. See Mark Kleiman's extensive coverage (Was it Rove? , Steve Teles on Reporter's Privilege, No Crime in the Plame Case. That's not what the Judge thinks) for an overview.

Two interesting points emerge from all of this. First, the press has known the whole story for quite a while but has ganged up to studiously avoid any mention of it in a show of misguided solidarity. Second, with regard to Judith Miller, the courts have been extremely clear that "the information she was given and her potential use of it was a crime." It is disingenuous for the NY Times editors to argue (a) that Miller testifying would have a chilling effect on whistleblowers everywhere; or (b) that the shroud of secrecy around the investigation somehow privileges them not to cooperate.

With respect to (a), the presiding Judge was clear in drawing a line between whistleblowers providing information on governmental misconduct and government officials committing a crime in providing secret information to attack administration critics.

With respect to (b), the Times admits that reporters' privileges are not unlimited. It also admits they don't have the information to know what the implications of this particular case are. The natural solution in such a case would be to let the courts -- which do have the requisite information -- determine the limits of those privileges. Worse still, Judge Hogan claimed that the source Miller "alleges she is protecting" had already waived her promise of confidentiality.

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