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June 29, 2006

Press Shield Law?

Q: Why not?
A: NY Times.

Looks to me like Ted Olson has picked the worst time to lobby for the creation of a statute protecting a “reporter’s privilege”.

Journalists reporting on high-profile legal or political controversies cannot function effectively without offering some measure of confidentiality to their sources. Their ability to do so yields substantial benefits to the public in the form of stories that might otherwise never be written about corruption, misfeasance and abuse of power. A person with information about wrongdoing is often vulnerable to retaliation if exposed as an informant.

Yet it has become almost routine for journalists to be slapped with subpoenas seeking the identity of their sources when their reports make it into print or onto the air. From the Valerie Plame imbroglio and the Wen Ho Lee investigation to the use of steroids by professional baseball players, it is now de rigueur to round up the reporters, haul them before a court, and threaten them with heavy fines and jail sentences if they don't cough up names and details concerning their sources.

And so the solution , according to Olson, is to place reporters above the law by permitting them to withhold evidence that any other citizen would be required to divulge. But don’t dare call it that, Olson says.

Reporters do not expect to be above the law. But they should be accorded some protection so that they can perform their public service in ensuring the free flow of information and exposing fraud, dishonesty and improper conduct without being exposed to an unanticipated jail sentence. A free society depends on access to information and on a free and robust press willing to dig out the truth and spread it around. This requires some ability to deal from time to time with sources who, for one reason or another, require the capacity to speak freely but anonymously.

But unfortunately we have seen in the last few months too many cases of the “Paper of Record” decides to put secret information related to the prosecution of the Crusade Against Jihadi Terror on the front page. It then cloaks its provision of aid and comfort to the enemy by wrapping itself in the First Amendment, despite the fact that such treason is clearly not protected by the Amendment. After all, Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally, and Ezra Pound were all acting in a journalistic role when they made their infamous broadcasts – two went to prison and the third to an asylum.

Sorry, Ted, I admire and respect you – but disagree on this point.

And I’m sad to see you shilling for the very entities that serve as intelligence agencies for jihadi sine like those who murdered Barbara.





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