The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Monday, October 11, 2004
Kinsley skewers source absolutism
An excellent op-ed (that quasi-oxymoron) from Michael Kinsley yesterday on the Bush-level simplistic lack-of-analysis fuelling media outrage over the Miller-Plame contempt ruling:
It is certainly true that anonymous sources are a valid and important tool of journalism. It is also true that undercover agents are a valid and important tool of espionage. Journalism and espionage both serve the public interest, most of the time. Does the journalism profession really want to get into an argument about whose secrets are more important? That is the argument it is careening toward with the insistence that the legal system should allow journalists absolute protection for their sources, even if that leaves espionage with no legal protection at all.
It's hard to see any likely panel of the Supreme Court granting such absolute protection. Branzburg v Hayes certainly doesn't (October 9).
And of course one must fight the temptation to allow the issue to be clouded by the utterly cynical use made by the New York Times (with Judith Miller as front-man) of patently unreliable sources (Ahmed Chalabi, most notably) for the purpose of ingratiating itself with the Bush administration , reckless (to be charitable) that it was thereby easing the path towards an illegal invasion.
Tim Rutten, also writing in the LA Times, under hed Sources of much dismay, suggests the way out surely most congenial to most parties: seeing the DC Circuit overturning Judge Thomas Hogan's decision on the basis that the facts of the case do not meet the Branzburg three-part test.
Now, I have no idea about Rutten's legal expertise: but he raises my interest in his line of argument almost to the level of doing some research. (Plenty of time for that, I fancy...)
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