Steven Teles of Brandeis writes:
Re: the Plame affair and journalist-source privilege.
The legal basis of the journalists’ claim is flimsy. The federal government doesn’t have a shield for this, and the states that do require journalists to hand over information when all other approaches have been exhausted. All the courts that have looked at this have required them to hand the information over. End of story.
But more important is the fact that, in not handing over the information earlier, these journalists have, arguably, done a grave injury to the political process.
Had it been known during the campaign that the presidents
most important political advisor, the designer of this political strategy, had committed a felony and jeopardized the national security of the United States, this would have been a very significant issue in the campaign. It is, arguably, something the public really needed to know to make an intelligent decision about whom to vote for.
There is now NO real political consequence to the actions that administration officials engaged in (there is a legal
consequence, perhaps, but no electoral consequence). So in that sense, these journalists not only flouted the law, they caused an election to occur without the full information the citizenry needed.
As such, in punishing them, the courts should come down as hard as possible.
Note that it isn’t just Cooper and Miller who withheld information the public ought to have known. Much of the Washington press corps apparently knew what the rest of us are just now learning, and kept their peace out of some sort of twisted professional courtesy, like the “blue wall of silence” that still protects brutal and crooked cops.
I can’t agree with Steve on the question of political consequences, though. GWB won’t run again, but there’s always another election coming along, not just for the GOP but for the Bush clan.
Still, the journalists’ decision to keep silent — backed with the full corporate resources of two of the biggest outlets in what the right wing still calls the “liberal media” — did lock us in to four more years of what Jefferson called “the reign of witches,” and probably to twenty-five years of Mr. Justice Gonzales, or Mr. (or Ms.) Justice Somebody-even-worse.