Skip to comments.Outing Operatives, Jailing Journalists: There's no crime at the center of the Plame kerfuffle.
Posted on 12/17/2004 10:31:53 PM PST by quidnunc
How did a federal law passed in 1982 to stop the activities of renegade ex-CIA agent Philip Agee become the tool to bring reporters Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper to the brink of jail for refusing to talk to a grand jury? Even more fundamentally, how has this law, whose inglorious history consists of a grand total of one prosecution of a junior CIA clerk in Ghana, thus far managed to escape serious scrutiny when its demanding requirements plainly were never intended to apply to the sort of case special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is pursuing against the Bush administration?
Last week, the New York Times and Time magazine reporters, both of whom have been held in contempt, took their arguments to the federal appeals court in Washington. They argued that the First Amendment and the federal law of privileges entitle them to protect their confidential sources from the reach of Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation into the identification of Valerie Plame as a CIA "operative" to columnist Robert Novak. Ironically, what started with a strong media endorsement as a probe of alleged executive branch misconduct is now so thoroughly focused on the journalists that we have lost sight of the fundamental flaw in the entire enterprise.
In all of this, far too little attention has been paid to the law that is driving Mr. Fitzgerald's inquiry. Nearly all discussion of the Plame investigation has instead mechanically assumed, without any critical thinking, that a crime was committed when "two senior administration officials," in Mr. Novak's words, disclosed to him in July 2003 that Ms. Plame was a CIA "operative."
In fact, the most powerful reason why journalists should not be jailed for failing to cooperate with Mr. Fitzgerald's grand jury is because Mr. Fitzgerald has no crime to investigate.
(Excerpt) Read more at opinionjournal.com ...
Okay, we now need a moratorium on the word "kerfuffle."
James Taranto used about four times in a single-day's Best-of-the-Web blog the other day.
And don't get me started on "plethora"...
As for the reporters, well, maybe their punishment should be something like doing farm reports for WKRP in Cincianati.
Are you saying that there has been a plethora of kerfuffles?