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Monday, October 11, 2004

Contemptible decision

I’m pretty sure the average citizen could really care less about a federal judge’s decision to cite New York Time reporter Judith Miller for contempt for refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA agent’s identity. But it shouldn't care less.

Just read this column from LA Times columnist Tim Rutten. He notes that “the Bush administration's war against the press entered a chilling new phase” with U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan’s decision.

Here’s an important excerpt:

“It's possible that only avarice makes corporate or governmental bureaucrats more ingenious than the inclination to secrecy. Faced with an embarrassing leak, why not demand that every employee who might have been the source formally waive any guarantee of journalistic confidentially? Anybody who declines might as well wear a sign that says, "Fire me. I'm the snitch."

“How long can it be before private corporations demand blanket versions of such waivers as a condition of employment?

“This country is now at war in part because our government acted on misinformation collected in secret and selectively disseminated. Miller and the New York Times were unwittingly complicit in that process.

“The fact remains, however that the road to Baghdad was paved with ignorance. Miller and her colleagues may understand this with a special clarity, but the 1st Amendment rights they defend are not theirs but the American people's. As they weigh the merits of Miller's case, Americans might ask themselves whether they'd like to know more or less about their government's conduct when they go to the polls next month. That's what this fight is about.”

And if you’re still not convinced of the urgency of this matter, I invite you to read Bill Moyer’s speech to the Society of Professional Journalists National Convention in September.

"A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." — James Madison, fourth President of the United States

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