Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Media Giants Notice They've Been Used

Throughout the CIA leak scandal, the White House has turned the media's methods for uncovering secrets on its head. Confidentiality was used by the powerful to control information. Judith Miller -- "Miss Run Amok" to her editors -- went to jail, not to protect whistleblowers, but to protect powerful men. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and the editors of the New York Times, blinded by their own ethos, have belatedly expressed regret for backing Miller.
Today in the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne points out that Scooter Libby counted on news organizations protecting their reporters to keep the truth from coming out:
As long as Bush still faced the voters, the White House wanted Americans to think that officials such as Libby, Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney had nothing to do with the leak campaign to discredit its arch-critic on Iraq, former ambassador Joseph Wilson.
And Libby, the good soldier, pursued a brilliant strategy to slow the inquiry down. As long as he was claiming that journalists were responsible for spreading around the name and past CIA employment of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, Libby knew that at least some news organizations would resist having reporters testify. The journalistic "shield" was converted into a shield for the Bush administration's coverup.
Confidentiality is not a God-given right or even a First Amendment right; it's not spelled out in the law. It's an accepted practice, supported by the public, because reporters serve an important role in keeping us informed in a world where powerful people would rather we remain ignorant.

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