Friday, October 21, 2005

When Sources Deliberately Lie or Break Laws
Limits on confidentiality pledges

Finally, someone has said what I have been thinking about the confidential source issue, raised by Judy Miller’s role in the illegal outing of CIA operative Valarie Plame. Check out Kinsley’s column in the WP entitled Whose Speech is Free? Below is an excerpt:
An exemption for journalists from the basic duty of a citizen to cooperate with law enforcement is supposed to encourage troublemakers who want to speak truth to power. But Miller was being used by people in power in a secret campaign to undermine a troublemaker. The conversations Miller wanted to protect are not merely evidence of a possible crime -- they are the alleged crime(outing an undercover CIA agent).If the reporter is immune from being compelled to testify, the law in question might as well not be on the books.

Why should a reporter not insist that a pledge of confidentiality is contingent on the leak not being a deliberate lie or illegal? Administration sources might think twice about leaking disinformation if they knew their cover could be blown.


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