Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Free Scooter Libby! Free Scooter Libby!

Michael Kinsley wants to: Free Scooter Libby!He starts out with:
There is no holier icon in the Church of the First Amendment than the anonymous leak. Ever since columnist Robert Novak published the identity of a CIA agent nearly four years ago, voices of journalism have delivered sermon after sermon about the centrality of leaks not just to journalism but to democracy itself: We need leaks to keep the government honest.
And concludes with:
If leaks are vital to freedom of the press, then surely both of the people needed to create a leak — the reporter and the source — deserve protection. If Judy Miller is a martyr of press freedom, then so is Scooter Libby.
In other words, the reason to acquit Libby is that he leaked and the press runs on leaks. But in the middle, he suggests that crimes were committed in the leaking, and by all indications now, none were. Libby was only charged (and is currently being tried) with a coverup of a non-crime. Kinsley can't quite get himself to point out that the "leaks" themselves in this case were most likely legal.

But the problem is that not all leaking is legal, and it is illegal to even publish some leaks. And Kinsley would have us put the New York Times in charge of deciding what is in the nation's interest to publish and what is not. That means a highly partisan publisher running his family's closely held corporation second guessing a democratically elected goverrnment.

But Kinsley is right that the Plame/Libby case has been a disaster for the press. Pinch Sulzberger of the NYT led the charge for the appointment of a special prosecutor, only to have the special prosecutor, when appointed, destroy the fiction that there was any sort of 1st Amendment press privilege or federal shield law protecting reporters from having to testify.

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