Sunday, April 03, 2005

News on the Plame Grand Jury Right Here... Very Soon.

I am going to soon break some news on the Plame grand jury investigation very soon....

But in the meantime, here are some other newsworthy articles regarding the various parties to the entire affair:

In the Nation, Russ Baker still finds wanting the journalism of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who has been found in contempt of court for refusing to testify before the Plame grand jury. Baker writes:

"The editorial page of the New York Times recently led with a justifiably outraged condemnation of George W. Bush's choice for United Nations ambassador-- John Bolton, a famously outspoken anti-UN and antimultilateral ideologue. How ironic, then, that the Times's news editors had previously dispatched to the UN a reporter tight with the same unilateralist clique-- a reporter who has written about alleged wrongdoing at the UN in such exaggerated way as to cast the organization and its leadership as almost beyond redemption."

Ouch. Whether of not Baker makes the case, I will proffer absolutely no opinion of my own. (What unblogger like behavior on my part!) Read for yourself and decide. Indeed, I am considering that the slogan for my blog should be: I blog, you decide.

Another profile of Judith Miller can be found here. Depending on your vantage point, it is either a more evenhanded portrait than the person portrayed in the Nation piece, or another example of a story so devoted to the conventions of evenhanded news reporting that it fails to enlighten us in any meaningful way. I take no position myself. As the slogan here is: I blog, you decide.

(The rapidity of blogs?!: Only moments ago (and two paragraphs prior), I was considering adopting the phrase "I blog, you decide" for my blog" and now I actually have. What a wondrous medium!)

William E. Jackson, in Editor & Publisher, also profiles Miller, expressing some harsh judgments, writing: "What is Miller's public campaign-- waged all across the country-- all about, other than a transparent attempt to rehabilitate her damaged reputation as a journalist."He also charges that Miller has cynically "attempted to the tie the controversy over her WMD reporting to her current court struggles." Once again, I blog , but you decide.

In a New York Sun article on the misdemeanor guilty plea of former Clinton administration national security advisor Samuel Berger, Bruce Fein, a former aide to then Attorney General Ed Meese during the Reagan administration, and about as right-wing person as one can be, (that was a reference to Fein, not the Sun), predicts that the guilty plea by Berger will increase the pressure for indictments to be brought in the Plame case. The leak of Plame's name, Fein said "was monstrous compared to the triviality of Berger." The special counsel in the Plame case, Fein added, will now be "pushed all the harder to come up with an indictment."

Justice would be done if whoever leaked Plame's identity as a clandestine CIA operative to columnist Robert Novak were to be finally held unaccountable. But, as of now, that unfortunately appears more likely something that is not going to happen.

In an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Randall D. Eliason, a former chief of the Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney's office for the District of Columbia argues his brief on behalf of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. As Eliason sees it, "editorial pages and commentators" have been unfairly "charging that the prosecutor is misguided and overzealous, a modern-day Inspector Javert."

Eliason is exactly right on the mark, in explaining why Fitzgerald, even if you strongly disagree with the course he has taken, has been so intent to obtain the testimony of reporters:

"If someone leaked disclosed classified information to a reporter, there are only two likely witnesses, the parties to that conversation. Even the identity of the leaker is known, he or she is almost certainly will assert a valid Fifth Amendment privilege not to testify. That the leaves the reporter as the sole available witness to a possible federal crime...

"Given these facts, the prosecutor has two options; subpoena the reporters to testify, or fold up the tent and go home."

Finally, do reporters have an unqualified privilege under the law not to reveal their confidential sources? The best story on the Web that I could find on this subject was this article, which appeared in Slate, and was written by Stephen Bates. The writer is identified at the bottom of the article as the literary editor of the Wilson Quarterly. Not mentioned is the fact that Bates once worked as an associate Independent Counsel for Kenneth W. Starr. I don't make note of that fact in some dark and Manichean-Sidney Blumenthal manner, but rather simply because it would be interesting to hear what Bates has to say as to how his experience working for Starr might have impacted his thinking today as to whether reporters do or do not have privilege. I would hope that Bates would write that story for Slate. Or, if he was interested, I will give him the space here on my blog... I don't know if I could pay him well. (I know he has heard that line from editors before, about not paying him well, as has every writer... But this is a blog, after all.) Bates is a prolific and thoughtful writer, and before anyone attempts to pigeonhole him because of his work for Starr, they should consider the fact that he once worked as an assistant to Lawrence Tribe at Harvard.

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