Time For A Blogger Ethics Panel
In a much cited WSJ Op Ed piece, former Carter Administration Attorney General Benjamin Civilleti writes with Republican Dick Thornburgh and former FBI Director William Webster that:
Public disclosure of the NSA program also brought a flood of class-action lawsuits seeking to impose massive liability on phone companies for allegedly answering the government's call for help. The Intelligence Committee has reviewed the program and has concluded that the companies deserve targeted protection from these suits. . . . We agree with the committee. Dragging phone companies through protracted litigation would not only be unfair, but it would deter other companies and private citizens from responding in terrorist emergencies whenever there may be uncertainty or legal risk.
Unless they reviewed the material, it is hard to see how they could have agreed. But leave that aside. The authors of the piece may have reached this conclusion in good faith, but their conflicts of interest need to be disclosed. Civiletti is a Senior Partner in the Washington law firm Venable, which represents telcos. Similarly, Thornburgh is affiliated with Kirkpatrick and Lockhart, also a telco law firm. And Webster is with Milbank Tweed, also a telco law firm. It may have had no effect on their views, but its disclosure is necessary to maintain journalistic ethics. Not surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal choose not to disclose these facts.
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