10.18.2005No, I'm not turning this blog into a politifest. But the Plame case (which is about to hit critical mass) raises interesting questions about the freedom of speech that I think are interesting in their own right.
Still, this article is good. From Stratfor: The Importance of the Plame Affair (subscription only). You can read the full article in D&D.
What we do know is this. In the course of events, reporters contacted
two senior officials in the White House -- Rove and Libby. Under the
least-damaging scenario we have heard, the reporters already knew that
Plame had worked as a NOC. Rove and Libby, at this point, were
obligated to say, at the very least, that they could neither confirm
nor deny the report. In fact, their duty would have been quite a bit
more: Their job was to lie like crazy to mislead the reporters. Rove
and Libby had top security clearances and were senior White House
officials. It was their sworn duty, undertaken when they accepted
their security clearance, to build a "bodyguard of lies" -- in
Churchill's phrase -- around the truth concerning U.S. intelligence
Some would argue that if the reporters already knew her identity, the
cat was out of the bag and Rove and Libby did nothing wrong. Others
would argue that if Plame or her husband had publicly stated that she
was a NOC, Rove and Libby were freed from their obligation. But the
fact is that legally and ethically, nothing relieves them of the
obligation to say nothing and attempt to deflect the inquiry. This is
not about Valerie Plame, her husband or Time Magazine. The obligation
exists for the uncounted number of NOCs still out in the field.
The New York Times and Time Magazine have defended not only the
decision to publish Plame's name, but also have defended hiding the
identity of those who told them her name. Their justification is the
First Amendment. We will grant that they had the right to publish
statements concerning Plame's role in U.S. intelligence; we cannot
grant that they had an obligation to publish it. There is a huge gap
between the right to publish and a requirement to publish. The concept
of the public's right to know is a shield that can be used by the
press to hide irresponsibility. An article on the NOC program
conceivably might have been in the public interest, but it is hard to
imagine how identifying a particular person as part of that program
can be deemed as essential to an informed public.
I dont have any questions, because I don't even know what sorts of questions to ask here. Miller went to jail, as she claims, for journalistic principles. Maybe she had ulterior motives, but the principle she is defending seems to be a virtuous one, lest we dissolve the freedom of speech. And yet, that same freedom is abused in the discolsing of Plame's name. I don't know how to adjudicate these issues, except that I feel strongly that the media should be held responsible for their speech without infringing on their ability to report necessary information to the public. But I dont know if there is any way to support such a position.