As you probably know, the Supreme Court declined to get involved in the cases of Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller being ordered to unmask their sources in the outing of Valerie Plame. As of now, Miller and the New York Times are standing firm, but Time has agreed to turn over the notes of Mr. Cooper without his blessing. My opinions follow.
First of all, this is a strange case from the start. From what I understand, Mrs. Miller didn't even write a story about Valerie Plame! So she's being pressured to reveal a source she didn't ever use (at least in this story). I would have to agree that this kind of government demand can only lead to a chilling in the freedom of the press. I mean, if ANY source can be forced into the open for a story not even written - where does that stop? Any source is vulnerable at any time. I can't agree at all with any part of the case against Mrs. Miller, and even though I still feel she was little more than a shill for the Bush Admin. in her stories about WMDs et al, she's being noble here, and she has my support and respect.
Not so for Time. Now, while I admire the claim of "no one being above the law, even if we don't agree with it" (would that the blowhard Roy Moore had just a bit less of an ego to be like this...and while I'm wishing for impossibilities, I'd like ten million dollars and world peace as well) here it seems more than a self-serving excuse to dodge some fines. "Well, gosh darn it, we're all for the freedom of the press, but doggone! That Supreme Court and all that." How noble to be for something until it's in trouble. Fair weather friends, meet marginally firm magazine.
But on to the issue - there is a crime, or not, depending on if the outing of Valerie Plame was legal or not. (Ethical and moral, nope. Of course, in Washington, those terms are rarely used without a negative in front.) So, should the reporters be forced to reveal their source in order to help prosecute a crime? If the source IS the criminal in question?
I say no. Think of how many cases would have been affected by this - Mark Felt, for example, could have been revealed. For that matter, all government leaks could be illegal, so any person who leaked could be called a criminal and named. Business could claim violations of copyright, or privacy, or heck, financial fraud if someone revealed how they had helped to falsify earnings or the like. Basically, you would have to someone totally innocent doing the leaking for them to be safe from a court order, and if they're totally innocent - even if somehow they couldn't be wedged into some violation - how would they be able to leak anything of importance?
I know I slam the media and still will. But if this ruling becomes the usual practice, I won't be able to anymore - they won't exist. All they will be, for the most part, will be mouthpieces repeating talking point memos and press releases. Investigative reporting will take a huge hit, one that may be fatal, and the 1st Amendment mentioning the freedom of the press may as well be replaced by a couple of lines of poetry.