Punchin' Judy

NY Times First Amendment 'martyr' Miller comes to town

"Mr. Fitzgerald also focused on the letter's closing lines," Miller wrote.

"'Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning,' Mr. Libby wrote. 'They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them.'

"How did I interpret that? Mr. Fitzgerald asked.

"In answer, I told the grand jury about my last encounter with Mr. Libby. It came in August 2003, shortly after I attended a conference on national security issues held in Aspen, Colo. After the conference, I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyo. At a rodeo one afternoon, a man in jeans, a cowboy hat and sunglasses approached me. He asked me how the Aspen conference had gone. I had no idea who he was.

"'Judy,' he said. 'It's Scooter Libby.'"

It's so fabulous, it seems like it could have happened to Bob Burkett. (I, for one, still believe Rove gave Burkett the fake-but-accurate Texas Air National Guard files he forwarded to Dan Rather in the case that would end Rather's career, which would explain the difference between me and The New York Times.)
"I just flew in from New York
and boy is my story tired."

Whatever one thinks of Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Bob Novak or Miller herself, it's easy, as a reporter, to be swayed by Abrams. It feels wrong—overly partisan, perhaps, or reactionary—to disagree with him about the sanctity of sources. If one is trying to be ethically consistent, one would remind oneself that good and bad are highly subjective these days, and it's possible that for those who think the CIA was wrong to work to undermine the White House's case for the war in Iraq, then the White House's leak would be a good one! The ethically conscientious person wouldn't hold First Amendment privileges only for his side (i.e., bringing down the Nixon White House), but for those who disagree with him (i.e., Karl Rove) as well. Yay for leaks! Information wants to be free!

But Valerie Plame worked on tracking loose nukes and other WMD in dozens of countries around the world, and her cover—and that of everyone she'd ever worked with at her phony brass plate company—was blown for the most petty personal animus. The consistent person will remember that the administration has said the media has blood on its hands for even writing about events at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, and has refused to make public more photos and video, even in the face of a federal judge's order, while administration apologists refer to the Plame affair as "silly," "unimportant" and "overblown." Anyone who's taken Con Law will remember that the First Amendment doesn't apply to printing the sailing dates of ships; the case for a national security exemption to First Amendment rights could probably without much sweat extend to naming undercover operatives tracking weapons of mass destruction. Information only wants to be free when there's an administration critic to castrate, national security be damned.


RSCHOENKOPF@OCWEEKLY.COM

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