Friday, January 27, 2006

The "L" Word...

Counsel for Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney, have asked a judge to order federal prosecutor Fitzgerald to release all documents related to the leaking of a CIA agent, Valerie Wilson's, name in a case that has come to be known as Leakgate which has resulted in 5 counts of perjury, and obstruction of justice, against Mr. Libby.

Stay tuned, while precious little is predictable especially in light of Hamas winning elections in Palestine, one thing we can count on is that we will not only see, in the coming weeks, an awesome representation of every major news organization, print and broadcast, in this country, being called to testify, including Tim Russert, NBC News; Matthew Cooper, Time Magazine; the Washington Post's very own Bob Woodward, and maybe even Judith Miller, but also the criminalization of the free flow of information and, by extension, a free press in America. This isn't just about divulging sources, this is about being able to have independent sources without succumbing to governmental oversight. This isn't merely a matter of confidentiality, or professional privilege, it's about credibility. When you compromise credibility, you challenge accuracy. When you challenge accuracy, you cut dissent off at the root.

While what we're witnessing is precedent setting with regard to journalists, this is hardly a first. You will recall that writers were interrogated, and forced to follow each other like a bunch of drunk lemmings down the slippery slope of covering their own hides at the expense of their integrity--forced to rat each other out, and turn on each other in order to provide for their families. Remember the McCarthy hearings? Instead of "Communist" plug in "terrorist," et voila! (Eco-terrorists? Domestic terrorists? ) An administration that can justify circumventing FISA courts, search warrants, the Fourth Amendment, and eavesdrop on your conversations, read your e-mails, isn't far from having to approve which version of the news hits your morning paper, or cable news program.

What may be even more terrifying is what will happen when editors, publishers, and the upper echelons of the newspaper food chain get summoned before a proposed DOJ hearing on the NSA leak, and who's feet are put to the fire for that one. Among the only thing certain about the Libby trial, and any upcoming NSA hearing, is that nothing learned in Journalism 101 could have prepared one for the road ahead.