SCOTUS vs. Journalists

28 Jun

Today the Supreme Court declined to hear the case of journalists Matt Cooper and Judith Miller. The blogosphere is having a tizzy, especially on the left where there is sharp disagreement about what should be done with the two journalists. It seems, at least on the left, that everyone wants Judith Miller to go to jail because she is a bad reporter. However, there is some significant disagreement about Matt Cooper.

Over at the Washington Monthly, they seem to be in love with Matt Cooper. In fact they pled, "DON'T SEND MATT COOPER TO PRISON". Over at the Talent Show, Greg pleads the opposite: "PLEASE SEND MATT COOPER TO PRISON". It doesn't take long to see that even if you are a card carrying member of the ACLU (like me), that Greg is right.The argument made by the Washington Monthly is simple:

Matthew Cooper is threatened with jail for refusing to reveal a source. The special prosecutor does not have to recommend jail, and even if he does recommend it, the judge can ignore it. Although we believe Matt is right in refusing to identify his source, that is not the argument that we make here. Our concern is to keep him out of jail. Matt is not only a fine reporter, he is a caring husband and father, a kind and thoughtful friend, and an all-round good citizen. And he has a marvelous sense of humor …

Now, this set me off a little. Read the rest of the post for more of the same with a little rationalization for their attitudes. However, Greg makes the best rebuttal for why Cooper should pay for his refusal to reveal a "source:"

Okay, I totally agree with the statement that "The protection of sources is critical to the free flow of information in a democracy." and I support the passage of a federal shield law for journalists, but can we try to narrow down what constitutes a "source"? It was my understanding that Matt Cooper and Judith Miller were among the reporters tipped off about Plame by the White House traitor, but didn't write about it (apparently Bob Novak was the only person in Washington sleazy enough to take the bait). If the illegal leak of a White House traitor wasn't the basis of an article by Miller or Cooper, what makes this person a "source" that requires protecting? By this definition, can anyone who talks to a reporter be considered a "source"? Or perhaps the person in question leaked information earlier for an unrelated story. Even then, shouldn't a reporter's loyalty be based on the specific stories rather than a blanket protection for any criminal wrongdoing that may occur? It's incredible to me that these two reporters would go to such extremes to protect their relationship with a leaker when the anonymous "source" in question was trying to exploit his/her relationship with the press in order to seek revenge against a political foe. These two are covering up for a criminal on the basis of shielding a source to stories that were never written. Yeah, todays SCOTUS ruling may be a bad precedent, but I can't help but agree with it in terms of this specific case.

The only thing I can add is that there is no possible reason for protecting this source even if you are Bob Novak and you published the story. It served no public interest, which should be the standard for shield laws. Reporters want to be able to decide when they should reveal sources, but that is not their prerogative. So, please send them both to jail, please. It will establish a better precedent: You can't use the press as a partisan tool without facing the consequences.

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