Time's Decision: The Rule of Law Trumps Confidentiality

Not surprisingly, Time Magazine has come under fire by journalists for its decision to turn over Matthew Coopers' notes in the Valerie Plame investigation. Bottom line: Reporters, watch your own back, Time won't do it for you.

After the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, [Time Editor- in-Chief Norman] Pearlstine says he concluded that TIME Inc. had an obligation to follow the law and obey the ruling. "An organization that prides itself on pointing its finger at people shouldn't be breaking the law itself," he said.

So the question is, should there be a federal shield law to protect reporters?

In the future, the best hope for journalists may be a federal shield law, now in Congress, which would let reporters keep sources confidential under any circumstances. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have shield laws, while 18 additional states have similar protections. A federal law has been proposed by Senator Richard Lugar and Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, who have signed up dozens of co-sponsors

Update: Here's an argument against a federal shield law.

< Specter's Challenge | The Bush Administration's War Against Open Government >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Re: Time's Decision: The Rule of Law Trumps Confid (none / 0) (#1)
    by Aaron on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:49 PM EST
    A legislated privilege could be worse for reporters than the status quo, not so much for the privilege it grants, but for what it takes away by omission. Would such a privilege cover the Plame case? Watergate? The Pentagon Papers? Run-of-the-mill leaks?

    Re: Time's Decision: The Rule of Law Trumps Confid (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:49 PM EST
    Again, if we can't look at each case on its own merits, in its own context, our idea of justice is essentially worthless. The truth in this case is Plame was outed for reasons of retribution, NOT for any reason that served ANY public purpose. Exposing her served the narrow and vindictive purposes of private parties in position of public power. If we can't tell the difference between a reporter serving the public good in a story and a reporter serving the private bad (mostly because they are pathetic dupes), then all the shields and guidelines in the world won't help us. 'Cause we ain't got no common sense. And if we need laws to explain common sense, well, we...are...way...past...gone.

    If a person becomes a confidential source by committing a crime, as in revealing the identity of a CIA operative, he becomes the confidential source to his own crime. This makes that person a fool, as well as a criminal. Why would any journalist risk their professional reputation to shield that?

    This should never be used as a test case for shielding of confidential sources. It simply doesn't fit the criteria.

    And just who is protecting who, in this matter?