Skip to comments.Press Freedom on the Precipice
Posted on 10/16/2004 6:50:03 AM PDT by OESY
A prosecutor's investigation into an apparent attempt by the Bush administration to punish a political opponent by revealing classified information has veered terribly off course. It threatens grievous harm to freedom of the press and the vital protection it provides against government misconduct.
The reality of the threat was driven home, quite personally for us, last week, when a federal judge in Washington sentenced a Times reporter, Judith Miller, to up to 18 months in prison for refusing to testify before a grand jury. The panel is looking into who gave Robert Novak the name of a covert Central Intelligence Agency operative, Valerie Plame, for publication in his syndicated column. Ms. Miller, who never wrote about the C.I.A. officer, was asked to describe any conversations she had with a specified government official. The danger was reinforced again on Wednesday, when Judge Thomas Hogan ordered a prison sentence for a Time magazine reporter, Matthew Cooper, in the same case.
The sentences have been stayed pending a consolidated appeal, expected to be heard next month. The specter of reporters' being imprisoned merely for doing their jobs is something that should worry everyone who cherishes the First Amendment and the essential role of a free press in a democracy.
Mr. Cooper, who wrote an article in which he said "some government officials" had identified the C.I.A. official, earlier testified about his conversations with Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, after Mr. Libby explicitly waived confidentiality. Ms. Miller declined to testify, or to seek a waiver, on the basis that consent granted under a threat of firing cannot be considered truly voluntary. After Mr. Cooper testified, the prosecutor issued yet another subpoena and demanded that he identify other sources. Mr. Cooper properly refused to do so on First Amendment grounds.
There are other issues at play, chief among them a decision by a United States attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, to compel Ms. Miller to disclose her contacts with government officials even though she never wrote an article about the controversy. Mr. Fitzgerald has also subpoenaed Ms. Miller's phone records in a different investigation, raising at least a perception of harassment, or that Mr. Fitzgerald may be trying apply pressure in the second situation to gain leverage in the first.
It remains extremely puzzling that Mr. Novak, who originally published Ms. Plame's name, appears to be in no jeopardy. Mr. Novak has remained oddly silent about the jail sentences his colleagues face for defending principles that also protect him.
Judge Hogan ruled that a reporter's privilege does not exist in a grand jury setting. He also said the prosecutor had met the standards that courts generally apply before ordering a reporter to disclose confidential sources. There are reasons to doubt that conclusion, but the secrecy of the prosecutor's filings makes it hard to be certain. Even the reporters and their lawyers are prohibited from seeing the prosecutor's affidavits.
No matter how journalists' privileges are calibrated, Supreme Court precedent protects them from harassment and heedless prosecutorial fishing expeditions like this one. The situation points to the wisdom of state laws that recognize and protect a special relationship between journalists and their sources. Congress should follow their lead.
ole media death rattle
hope the die slow......alone and cold
Hang 'em High!
I don't even know who qualifies as a "journalist" anymore. The whole world of journalism has changed and it seems that anyone who writes anything can claim to be a journalist.
If the issue is one of who leaked FBI info, then commonsense would tell even the most afflicted "journalist" that source protection may be limited by an even bigger concern. Based on the incredible amount of OP-Ed journalism and the total lack of integrity by journalists in a global sense, I don't see why journalists should have the privilege of protecting anyone's gossip, esp as it related to matters of security. IMO, they are way too self-important. If a story is legit, then there should be at least one legit source that can be verified. Just my opinion.
So much misunderstanding of our Constitution. First of all, we are not a democracy, but rather a republic, with democratically elected representatives. Second freedom of the press is just that, freedom to print (or publish) what one wishes. It does not grant any special privileges to some self appointed (anointed?) group who label themselves "the press". They have no more right to hide information of a crime than anyone else. They have no more "right to know" than anyone else. They have no more right to be anywhere or see anything than anyone else. Their only power, and it belongs to all of us as well, is to publish what they know, or think or think they know, without prior restraint from government.
Ask the NYT what they think of the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" and they'll tell you that despite those plain words, "right of the people", that the right belongs to the states and their organized, and federally controlled, militias. So much for their reading and comprehension skills.
"I don't even know who qualifies as a "journalist" anymore. The whole world of journalism has changed and it seems that anyone who writes anything can claim to be a journalist."
Sad to the hilt. There is little jounalism in the MSM any more. The MSM has degenerated to a blatantly obvious political instrument of the far-left socialist element in this country...WHY??? I still to this day do not FULLY understand why they chose this course. Do they feel that they must pander to the left to sell newspapers? Is the left the only group that watches TV anymore??? Maybe part of it stems from the fact that the left did hold so much control in Congress for so long --- and the media just aligned with the STATUS QUO. Regardsless, it is a sad time for America...losing one of the great freedom instruments it had to the socialist left and worse.
As it states in the preamble to the US Constitution, "We the people". After all, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
Hooray for Judge Hogan.
UH..... OK, which part of the 1st Amendment 'mr' NY Slimes? HUH?
Or do you mean this little part..
Now, if you can get this worked up over one TINY LITTLE portion of the complete amendment, how about DEFENDING with the same zeal, the Right to Keep and Bear Arms which has a WHOLE amendment all to itself???? You know, the 2nd one.
Yes, NY Slimes... I'm waiting......
And how about this NY Slimes -- we pass 20,000+ restrictions on that little .16667% of the 1st Amendment. Would you like that? Huh? Some nice 'common sense' press controls?
I think we should. After all, it's for the children.
This fact is what makes this story (and the investigation) nothing more than mental masturbation.
"an apparent attempt by the Bush administration to punish a political opponent"
Since when is it APPARENT that the Bush administration was responsible for this? What a buch of BS!
"Reporter's privelege" has NOTHING to do with news, reporting or informing the public, it is simply a mechanism to protect a property tight. That property right is the source who provided valuable information once and may be persuaded/cooerced/bribed to do it again. If the source is identified, then anyone would have access to that potentially valuable source; the property right has been given away.
With a free press, readers would be able to evaluate the words by evaluating the source. In fact, this is one of the few instances where left-wing organizations do not place more weight on the affiliation of the speaker than on the speaker's words.
The media out, of course, would be to accept anaonymous submissions (as we do here) and, therefore, be able to say honestly, "We do npt know where this came from." But, that would force them to evealuate the words before using them and lazy leftists don't like that. It would also give up a property right that, today, can be manipulated. All media types worship the perpetrators of the greatest media hoax/dishonesty ever pulled off on America: deepthroat. A couple of anti-Nixon hacks faked a source for false information and got lucky (I still say Graham slipped a recorder behind a cushion in the Oval Office). All other press sleazes, some of whom actually believe there is a deepthroat, dream of a confidential source that be be as rich a meal ticket!
The NYT is pathetic, and their stock's performance reflects that fact.
Jeez, from the headline I thought the Slimes was going to point out the sinister threats by Kerry staffers against Sinclair Broadcasting. What a disapointment.
Second freedom of the press is just that, freedom to print (or publish) what one wishes. It does not grant any special privileges to some self appointed (anointed?) group who label themselves "the press". They have no more right to hide information of a crime than anyone else. They have no more "right to know" than anyone else. They have no more right to be anywhere or see anything than anyone else. Their only power, and it belongs to all of us as well, is to publish what they know, or think or think they know, without prior restraint from government.
Great posts, both of you. I agree completely, the press no longer performs its function as a watchdog of the government. They have chosen sides and now function as a propaganda arm of the left by printing half-truths, biased opinion, witch-hunts, and lies of omission as the gospel truth. If anyone dares to confront them...well you see what results.
You are right,,if we decide to challenge the so-called journalists with any facts to the contrary then we are just partisan hacks with an agenda..
kinda like the journalists...
HEY! Are you calling me a journalist???? (sarc)
Boo frickin' hoo, NYT. Where were you when James Sanders was getting railroaded?