Thursday, July 07, 2005

Judith Miller Goes to Jail

Long story short: NY Times writer refuses to reveal her sources to a federal prosecutor, judge finds her in contempt, she goes to jail while protecting her source.

Long story long: She's undermining journalists everywhere for her own ambition. Shield laws apparently exist in most states to protect journalists from being compelled to reveal anonymous sources. These laws exist because there is a belief that the free flow of ideas is the best insurance of a democratic society. More specifically, we, as a society, believe that freedom of speech is the best way to make sure that truth surfaces. By protecting whistleblowers' and victims' identities, we make sure that they will not fear retribution for speaking out. To my mind, this is the purpose of the shield laws.

If we are to say that the shield laws exist solely to protect anonymous sources, then we get a loophole that has been precisely manipulated in this case. This shield law changes effects greatly, what in fact arises is a system where a lawbreaker is 'shielded' from prosecution solely by employing a journalist as an intermediary. You want to defame someone, get a journalist to publish it. All of a sudden, you are protected from slander. The fact is, the shield law that Miller is trying to protect is one that allows her to get scoops from sources that don't want to reveal themselves for plausible deniability. They are preventing the public from knowing their true identities in order to insulate their political goals, not to protect themselves from retribution. And if you take the next step here, (why would Judith Miller go to jail to protect a source that is using her?) the answer seems to be she wants to protect her right to get scoops. Do the shield laws really exist to protect a journalist's right to get scoops?

Miller made her name by having sources within the Bush administration that used her to diseminate information. She's entitled to say that she does not want to reveal her sources as it would damage her career, but she is doing a disservice by hiding behind the shield laws that are intended to serve the public, not her ambition.

Needing a laugh today

Jason Reed/Reuters

There was this picture in the Times today in a story about the President's birthday. But the best part was the following passage:

"Mr. Bush, apparently aiming to burn off some of his birthday calories after arriving at the Gleneagles resort in Scotland, took his mountain bike out for a spin. He was pedaling along at what his spokesman, Scott McClellan, described as "a pretty good speed" when he crashed into a local police officer who had been standing guard along the road.

The president, who was wearing a helmet, slid across the asphalt, suffering "mild to moderate" scrapes on his hands and arms, Mr. McClellan said, and was bandaged by the White House physician, Dr. Richard Tubb.

The White House provided no details of any damage to Mr. Bush's ego. The police officer unlucky enough to have been in the president's path was taken to a local hospital and later released after doctors found no fractures. Mr. McClellan said the president had spent some time with the officer, whose identity was not released by the White House, right after the collision."