Squeezing the reporters

The FBI is asking suspects in the Plame investigation to sign waivers of journalistic privilege, as a prelude to trying to squeeze the name of the person or persons or unmask her (or, more likely confirmation of the names the FBI already knows) from the reporters involved. Apparently, the reporters so far are staying mum. (Note that the Time reporters seem to think that’s a good thing, though they don’t bother to explain why, merely referring to the “ethical standards” of journalism.)

According to the story, everyone is signing the documents, since failing to do so would virtually amount to confessing. When Stuart Levine proposed this tactic a couple of months ago, Eugene Volokh among others (including the undersigned) expressed skepticism that it would work. It might not, in terms of convincing the reporters to talk, but it might make it easier for prosecutors and judges to ignore the bleating and compel their testimony.

Like the Ashcroft recusal, this is clearly a good sign, because it suggests that the identity of the people who burned Plame, rather than the criminality of their conduct in doing so, is the issue on the investigators’ minds.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com