Monday, June 27, 2005


I'm not in the mood to pick fights with people who are roughly on my team today so I'll skip the linkage, but I find a lot of the talk about the Miller/Cooper cases a bit puzzling. There are a lot of people who think that it's a major blow to freedom of the press if Miller/Cooper go to jail. It is true that the Sentelle penned opinion which may lead them there is not something those of us in favor of press freedom should be happy with, but that's a separate question of whether this is really the test case onto which people want to hang their source privilege hat.

There are also those who continue to want to draw the distinction between "journalists" and "other people." As someone who's about to go testify to the FEC and argue that what I do doesn't differ in any important way from what other players in the "legitimate" media do I find this very troubling. Journalism is not what people are, it's what they do.

The ability to maintain source confidentiality should not hinge on what one's job description is. A journalist should not and cannot have blanket immunity from ever testifying in court about what they know. That's an abuse of a privilege, and the kind of abuse which tends to lead to the limitation of the scope of that privilege.

Reasonable people can disagree about whether the Plame case situation crosses the line between maintaining source anonymity and covering up a crime. Certainly I sympathize with those who believe that any erosion of press freedom should be of concern. But the self-righteous claims of absolute privilege ring rather hollow in this case.