Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Reporters in the prosecution of Libby

I’m not going to get involved in speculating about Libby’s guilt or innocence, but these two articles point to the central role of reporters in the case against him. This has two consequences, both problematical for the profession of journalism.

First, any decent defense attorney is going to work pretty hard to impeach the reporters as witnesses, which means putting their careers under a microscope. It’s hard to imagine anyone emerging from such scrutiny unscathed. And it’s hard to imagine these three (Tim Russert, Matthew Cooper, and Judith Miller) not serving as stand-ins for their respective news media (television, news magazines, and newspapers), at least in the public mind (to the extent, of course, that anyone pays attention to this).

Second, once these three testify against Libby, any source is going to think twice about promises of confidentiality and about speaking to journalists in anything other than the most bland and innocuous manner. News-gathering will get more difficult, and the people who are willing to say "interesting" things may be different from those who actually have "interesting" things to say.

Update: There’s more along roughly the same lines here.

Discussions - 26 Comments

I agree with you that it’s going to be more difficult for reporters to gather juicy ’leaked’ news items from staffers in Washington.

However, this entire mess is of their own making. Now that they’ve achieved their goal, an indictment of someone in the Bush administration, they must be content with the results.

Another example of the law of unintended consequences.

I would suggest that Judith Miller, for instance, has done more than enough to satisfy her committment to confidentiality. More, it would appear, than Libby has. This strikes me as a strange tack, here. Libby lied to the Grand Jury in order to protect either himself or his boss, or both. The original problem, of course, is the outing of a CIA agent. And yet, you are suggesting that we should worry about the integrity of the press?


If Fitzgerald could have charged anyone with revealing the identity of a genuinely covert agent, he would have. Plame was not actually undercover and had not been out of the country in five years; as I understand it, that means that no crime was committed in revealing her identity. The alleged crime consists in lying. We’ll see about that at trial. There are people,, who I regard as credible who think Libby is in serious trouble and others, also credible to me, who disagree.

My intent was not to minimize the seriousness of being charged with a crime, but to consider other likely consequences of the trial. The relationship between reporters and their sources will be much more difficult to manage, and the latter will be much less forthcoming, which means, for better or worse, "we the people" will be more heavily reliant on "official sources" or on reporters will to take a risk on less reliable sources.

I don’t know, Joe. It seems that "the people" I read here have pretty much written off the MSM, anyway, and that your concern about their perceived integrity from now on seems a bit less than sincere.

I would think that the righties might be worried more about the integrity of the White House, and of the right in general. Frist is in trouble, Libby is in trouble, DeLay is in trouble, Rove is probably still in trouble. Bush’s approval ratings have hit 34%. To worry about the poor press right now seems to me like a back-handed attempt at distraction.


Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m neither "worried" nor "concerned" about the "perceived integrity" of the press. To subject members of the press to the same sort of scrutiny to which they subject political figures may not be a bad thing.

And I’m not trying to distract anyone, save perhaps myself, with these thoughts. There’s plenty of commentary, offered by people with much bigger megaphones than I have, about the legal difficulties faced by Libby, DeLay, and, perhaps, others. All are, of course, innocent until proven guilty. And, as the Clinton Administration showed, legal difficulty doesn’t necessarily and immediately translate into political difficulty, though poor Al Gore did suffer for his close connection with his President.

I think that the clam-up incentive is even greater than you suggest. Much of the indictment is trivial - Libby is accused of telling the grand jury that he told Cooper that he had heard from other reporters that Plame was CIA when actually he told Cooper simply that he had heard that Plame was CIA (no "heard from reporters"). Huh?

So who will want to face a perjury rap, which is ruinous financially, because a hostile reporter may or may not remember some detail correctly? (Or you may not.)

And, of course, it does not have to be perjury -- it can be a charge of lying to a federal agent.

I, personally, would not consider talking to investigators about anything without a tape recorder running. And probably not then.

Fung, as Lefties so often reminded us during the Clinton administration, indictment does not equate with guilt, necessarily. I think DeLay will beat the rap, and Frist isn’t in any real trouble. Libby...I don’t know. Since there was no original crime at all, I think the prosecutor’s job becomes pretty difficult. This begins to look like what it is -- a special prosecutor doing his damnedest to keep his cushy position and justify his existence. And unlike Clinton, where clear wrongdoing existed, and don’t see much clear wrongdoing in this instance.

As for Bush and his approval ratings, that’s a combination of stupid Supreme Court picks and high gas prices. He’ll weather both and be back in fighting trim, so warm up your ol’ hate-o-meter -- you’re going to need it!

Oh, and I want to congratulate your ducking and weaving on the Iraq situation in the thread that just got sunsetted. I hope you address my points in a more appropriate thread.

"people who are willing to say "interesting" things may be different from those who actually have "interesting" things to say." This has already happened.

In any case perhaps we will find that anyone who has interesting things to say to the press will be given access hence forth to only the most bland and innocuous subject matters.

It’s amazing to me that so many posts wish to make the point that the charges Libby is facing are trivial. Bill Clinton’s charges were the trival ones--it was a personal matter for him whether he was to commit adultery. It was shameful of him to cover it up illegally. However, there were no real consequences for the country--no lives lost or resulting horrific injuries to US forces, no squandering of the surplus achieved by the Clinton administration, no exacerbation of the global terrorist threat, no alienation of allies abroad. The Libby indictment clearly shows the arrogance of the New American Century club in forcing their agenda upon the American people and world at any cost. And if you believe that Libby was operating as a free agent without the encouragement or direction of his superiors (e.g., Cheney), you have sunk into a pathetic state of denial regarding the maliciousness of this administration.

I, for one, do not think this is trivial. If Libby did obstruct justice or commit perjury, he should be punished. There are, however, two things you seem to be missing.

First, a big part of the story is the fact that there is no underlying crime. For two years we have heard nothing but ramblings about the White House releasing classified information and outing a covert agent. In fact, neither of those things happened. That actually undercuts all of the rambling we have heard from the media about endangering agents, as well as your comments about "lives lost" and "horrific consequences." If your comments are meant to refer to the war generally, perhaps you should reconsider their relevance to this thread, since Libby’s perjury has nothing to do with the war itself (which was already well underway). The inaccuracy of Wilson’s findings and whatever role they did or did not play in the run up to the war are completely separate issues from whether Libby lied toi Pat Fitzgerald.

Second, Bill Clinton’s perjury was not a personal matter. He lied during a sexual harassment trial in which he was the defendant. He did so in order to deprive his victim of her civil rights. Let’s not try to whitewash history by trivialing what he did.

I’ve been waiting for someone to say that. There is one difference, CBM. Clinton really DID lie to a grand jury...that hasn’t been proven at all in Libby’s case. Moreover, if you think dallying with an intern didn’t harm the country in any significant way, you are the one in a "pathetic state of denial." One has only to see how his "inappropriate behavior" distracted him from pursuing Bin Laden to understand the real cost to the country.

The real problem with Clinton is that he is corrupt from head to toe. Lewinski was just a trivial telltale of a complete, consuming narcissism that ill-served the country. I don’t think we’ll know the true damage to the country for years yet, but I do know that he damaged the integrity of his office...and that’s enough to make comparisons between Libby and Clinton utterly asinine. Clinton shouldn’t have gone to jail for what he did, but he should have been tossed out of office.

This, of course, is a more obvious example of distraction than the one that I suggested was happening with JK. How in the world do we allow ourselves to fall into this "I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I" routine?"

Right now, Clinton is irrelevant. Lewinski is irrelevant. The effect of the process on future willingness to speak to the press is relevant because that was Joe’s starting point.

But, friends, let’s not waste our energy allowing apologists for the right to aim the spotlight back on Clinton!

Dain, for instance, will maintain Clinton’s lack of integrity and vision even as the Middle East, the economy, the cabinet, and everyone but Halliburton and Exxon lie in shambles around Bush’s feet.

You know those t-shirts with arrow, that say "I’m with stupid"? I want ot buy one for Bush and Dain that points to Clinton, and says "I’m responsible for nothing: He is."

I am not an apologist for the right. I referenced Clinton only because "chicagobluesman" did. Fung, I am curious, though, how you reconcile your criticism of the "I know you are" line of thought with your snide "I"m with stupid" ending.

Oh, AM, Fung is morally and intellectually bankrupt...I wouldn’t pay him much mind. As for Clinton, I believe it was a Clintonite (Mr. chicagobluesman) who brought him up. Fung, as usual, has projected blame onto us rightwing "boogeymen," when it was his ilk all along that started the ’trouble’. Typical.

You’ll also notice that he berates us all for getting off topic, but then goes on to make his usual stupid (and inaccurate) accusations against Bush. Economic growth is good, the Iraqis are hammering out a real honest-to-God constitution, even New Orleans is recovering.

Nope, you really need to ignore Fung. As I’ve said repeatedly, he has a Ph.D. is psychology, which should tell you just about everything you need to know about his moral and intellectual development.

So Dain, would Fung be more "morally developed" if he had a PhD in Jesusolgy? Also, I’m glad to read your optimistic little state of the Union summary! Dain says everything’s goin’ swell and the liberal MSM is lying to us, so we can all just relax!

Which universities offer "Jesusology" as a major? I’d study it if I could.

So I take it that you aren’t a religious person, Phil? Actually, why do you liberals always drag Jesus into everything (as if slapping a ’Christian’ label on someone automatically delegitimated his/her point of view)? Hey, Phil, tell me what gravity is, will ya? Not just how it behaves, but its essence. See, I want to be all scientific like you Leftist Illuminati!

Dain - I did not berate "us all." Perhaps you didn’t read the word "friends," that I used to address pretty much everyone but you.

And, as is typical, you have once again shown what a fine example of open-mindedness you are when you assume that my title and discipline tell you about my moral integrity. Then, you have the ignorance to attack Phil like this: "(as if slapping a ’Christian’ label on someone automatically delegitimated his/her point of view)?"

This is the tactic (again!) of the bubbas of fascism. Intellectuals are bad. If you DON’T have a Ph.D. then you have all you need.

Some of us really did learn all we needed to know in Kindergarten, didn’t we?

Anyone who can actually think about religion and science at the same time is AGAINST religion. It is so much easier when you can only hold one thought in your head at once.

Gravity doesn’t have an essence. It is also incorrect to say that gravity behaves... Objects behave a certain way because of a force that we label gravity.

Dain, am I mistaken, or haven’t you told us that you are not a religious person either?

John, you elitist, leftist intellectual! That smacks of science, and Dain doesn’t like science! Where did you get your sources, from some hate-mongering website like What are you, a Mooron?

Things fall because God wants them to fall. I can prove this: If God did not want them to fall, then they wouldn’t, like the moon. See? If you disagree, then you are against God, and are probably pro Islam, which means you are pro Bin Laden. Why don’t you just leave the U.S. before the brown shirts come knocking on your window? Traitor!

If ya ask me, there needs t’be a whole lot more Jesusology and a whole lot less Ay-rab-ology.

Fellas, you got me wrong! I don’t dislike science or scientists. I dislike arrogant science and pseudo-scientists (like Fung). It really isn’t my fault that psychology hasn’t brought us any closer to happiness, balance, or cures for mental illness. It’s a squishy pseudo-science, so don’t blame me.

People who understand the scientific method know that scientists do not have a monopoly on the truth...true science is a humble enterprise, creating little pockets of order from chaos, and every ’finding’ is in danger of being overturned by the next research article. Secularists who get all puffed up about "science" and the stupidity of "religion" betray their own ignorance about that which they worship.(And, as I’ve said repeatedly, I’m not a particularly religious person...I think the evidence for such things as natural selection is overwhelming).

About gravity, my point was that we have a name for it and a set "rules" that it (mostly) follows, but many mysteries remain. And saying that it is "grooves in space-time" as Einstein did doesn’t make it much clearer. And, John, stick to history and political science.

And Fung, I’ll be happy to (continue to) out-think you, even without a Ph.D. You are a funny guy (as well as a true traitor).

Joe - your first paragraph of comment #3 above indicates that you aren’t up to speed on the Plame issue. Most of the Right, in trying to hair-split and hedge to find a way to make the outing of Plame acceptable, is revealing that they put partisanship over love of country and principles. At least W.F. Buckley seems to get it on this one particular issue.

We have noticed that Valerie Plame Wilson has lived in Washington since 1997. Where she was before that is not disclosed by research facilities at my disposal. But even if she was safe in Washington when the identity of her employer was given out, it does not mean that her outing was without consequence. We do not know what dealings she might have been engaging in which are now interrupted or even made impossible. We do not know whether the countries in which she worked before 1997 could accost her, if she were to visit any of them, confronting her with signed papers that gave untruthful reasons for her previous stay — that she was there only as tourist, or working for a fictitious U.S. company. In my case, it was 15 years after reentry into the secular world before my secret career in Mexico was blown, harming no one except perhaps some who might have been put off by my deception.

Also, regardless of one’s feelings on the show overall, the recent 60 Minutes piece on the Plame affair made it abundantly clear that a very real "outing" occurred. This is a perfect issue for sorting the principled Right from the partisan, ideological chaff, and it appears that most fall into the latter category, willing to defend just about anything from the offices of Bush and Cheney.

Come on, Frank, she was a desk jockey. The only thing undercover about her was her partisan agenda.

So, there was nothing for Scooter to lie about, then. So, who lies for no reason? Someone who lies out of habit.

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