Monday, June 12, 2006


What Edward Wasserman says:

Source confidentiality

When the media decide that predatory bureaucrats with a good-enough story to tell are entitled to constitutionally sanctioned protection, regardless of their truthfulness and recklessness, where does that leave us, the citizenry? And what happens to that core principle of accountability -- of the government and the media?

The practice of source confidentiality needs an overhaul. The continuing Bob Novak affair, in which reporters have risked prison to safeguard the right of senior government officials to endanger a blameless CIA agent whose husband embarrassed the administration, should have been enough. Instead, the media's toothless response has been to treat this as a PR problem, to start disclosing the ''reasons'' for withholding an informant's name, which generally boil down to, ``The source insists.''

The real question is, why are you telling these guys' stories in the first place?

Confidentiality promises are powerful and complex things. Sometimes brave and desperate people take great risks to expose important wrongdoing, and the reporters who shield them accept legal exposure. Good for them.