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Journalists and Sources

So, the Supreme Court turned down the case of the two reporters who might go to jail for not revealing their sources in the Valerie Plame case.

Various times I've thought about commenting on this case, but I haven't before. There's always been something else to write about.

Here's my basic take. I usually am a staunch defender of the right of journalists to keep their sources confidential. But I think that this case was intriguingly different. In this case the leaking of the information was criminal. It wasn't a whistleblower needing to be protected from abusive power. No, the leak itself was an abuse of power. The grand jury investigation was trying to determine whether the White House had intentionally leaked Valerie Plame's name in an attempt to discredit or damage her husband, who was a public critic of the administration. This isn't Deep Throat trying to let the public know information it needed to know. This is, potentially, White House staffers violating the law protecting CIA agents from being outed. The leak itself was an abuse of power. The potential leakers were hoping to be proected by press confidentiality while abusing the very reason we have such a protection. The administration was, potentialy, illegally using the free press to undermine their enemies; which is an abuse of the free press.

The confusing thing in this case is that the original leak was to Robert Novak, who hasn't been charged with anything. Did he go ahead and reveal his source, or not? I've always thought that unless he revealed his source in this case, that he was party to the potential abuse of power.

My opinion.


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I agree with you that this was criminal. But, it scares me that we're on a slippery slope - at what point does a judge not have the right to ask for this information? While that line seems clear to outside observers, I'm not so sure that this doesn't set a scary precedent. I thought that Time did at least give a somewhat reasonable answer, albeit one that still won't appease many people. You have to wonder about the ability of journalists to gather info now, though; I'm not sure that too many folks are making the distinction about the difference between this situation and Deep Throat amid all of the media hollering.

Maybe I'm just paranoid about civil liberties after the whole eminent domain thing... I'm taking all possible cuts at them a little more seriously than I have in the past.

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