The DoJ’s Double Standard


Matt Bivens over at The Daily Outrage has pointed out a rather startling comparison re the treatment of two different reporters by the Justice Dept:

They [the JD–m] imprisoned Vanessa Leggett, a novice crime writer who had researched a Houston society murder prosecutors felt confident they had sewn up — only because Leggett refused to surrender her notes and sources when the government demanded them. Leggett had promised otherwise — and it’s a journalist’s perogative not to reveal sources who quietly have agreed to share truths and information. So the Feds threw her in jail. With John Ashcroft looking on in stony silence, and ignoring letters and pleas from First Amendment advocates, the president’s legal geniuses kept her there for a record-breaking 5 and 1/2 months. During this period, the United States joined Cuba as the only other nation in the Western hemisphere to hold a journalist in jail over their work.So if they play that kind of hardball when the stakes are so low, one would expect real fireworks when the stakes are as high as a White House operative destroying a CIA agent. Right?

Nah. President Bush says we’ll probably never get around to figuring out who in his Administration used Robert Novak and others to unmask the agent-wife of one of his critics. (And “used” is the operative word here — which is precisely why Novak ought to feel free to reveal his source. We journalists protect sources for giving us information; we do not have the right or privilege or obligation to protect them when they’ve used us to commit a crime.)

Moral: If you don’t want to get locked up, report only what Ashcroft’s Neocon Justice Dept wants you to report. (And try to arrange to be Scooter Libby’s buddy, too; obviously, that helps.)

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