« What Is This Country Coming To? | Main | Heh... »

April 23, 2008

Great Moments In Journalistic Navel-Gazing

What is best in life? To watch the lamestream media engage in bouts of unintentionally ironic hanky twisting "introspection":

This bring us to a touchy subject – why do we in the media pay attention to speeches such as this?

Hawking is undoubtedly an inspiring man and a brilliant scientist. But what does he really know about space exploration? More than me almost certainly. But more than many of those those working at Nasa and ESA? I doubt it.

This is another example of misplaced attention. When Hawking has something to say about cosmology I’m all ears, but I’d rather have experts stick to their topics of knowledge.

Exactly. After all, listening to a world famous theoretical physicist who specialized in the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity talk about the need for space exploration isn't nearly as ridiculous as, say, listening to a former Senator from Tennessee wag his finger at us about Global Warming.

Or taking advice from a Hollywood actress on foreign policy issues.

Or even (heaven forfend!) like taking the uncorroborated word of an unseen, unnamed Anonymous Source who speaks off the record and only on the condition that he not be identified because the terms of his employment forbid him from speaking to the media about his job, but who should (inexplicably) be considered "trustworthy"** nonetheless.

[thud]

Especially when this Anonymous Source just "happens" to have a nifty draft copy of a classified document he'll gladly grant the reporter access to! Of course, "technically" it *is* against the law to leak classified information to the media.

This might be disturbing, if we didn't know that "good" and "evil" are outdated constructs of a reflexively authoritarian religious reich right which have no place in an educated society. Free actors understand that true morality can only exist in the absence of artificial and unduly confining notions of "right" and "wrong", "legal", and "illegal". It is the job of a free press to provide much-needed context, such as the fact that there are "good" leaks and "bad" leaks ("good" and "bad" in this sense having entirely new meanings that have been "reclaimed" by the media and purged of their dark, religion-tinged past. Thank Gaia!)

And what's even better, because their moral authority remains uncorrupted by either the electoral process or the onerous burden of so-called "checks and balances", the press are uniquely annointed qualified to distinguish between "good" and "bad" leaks.

This, my friends, is why we so desperately need a federal shield law. It is all so incredibly simple when it is explained properly, n'est pas?

Posted by Cassandra at April 23, 2008 08:10 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.villainouscompany.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/2105

Comments

I worked with classified material over a decade ago. Were I to discuss the contents of that material with my WIFE, I'd be guilty of a felony. That particular felony is known as ESPIONAGE. In fact, I will be in my 90's before I can legally discuss it. But yet, some pogue decides that they have 'concerns' and run to the press with classified documents? I want nothing more or less than for these 'leakers' or 'whistleblowers' to be arrested and tried for espionage, just like I would be. Whistleblowing is fine. However, the correct body to report to is NOT THE D**NED NEW YORK TIMES.

Sorry, this gets under my skin something fierce.

Posted by: MikeD at April 23, 2008 11:18 AM

That was funny! Best disclaimer I have heard regarding why we should believe an anonymous source. The "bravery" of this coward to hide behind whistleblower ROE for partisan advantage is typical of the left these days. They really believe that violating national security justifies their construct of "end justifying the means."

Well said as usual.

Posted by: vet66 at April 23, 2008 11:18 AM

MikeD; Didn't we sign a paper when we were discharged that we would never divulge, discuss, etc. what we encountered under need-to-know and classified documents?

How do these clowns get away with this?

Posted by: vet66 at April 23, 2008 11:21 AM

Yeah we did. I guess some of us consider our promises and oaths worth something. It really disgusts me that others apparently don't remember the meaning of 'honor' or 'loyalty'. And you're more kind than I 66'. I'd use something much harsher to describe these 'people' than "clowns".

As for how they get away with it? Sadly I have to say it seems like the Administration is not willing to fight the press about it.

Posted by: MikeD at April 23, 2008 11:26 AM

This is what gets me.

Every day my husband gets calls at all hours of the day - even on weekends. They interrupt our private family time. And often they concern matters that will be in the news. Stories I am intensely interested in.

He doesn't tell me about them. Not because he doesn't trust me. He can, and he knows that implicitly.

But...

[drum roll]

BECAUSE THEY ARE NONE OF MY DAMNED BUSINESS. I have no need to know, and what I don't know, I can't let slip by "accident". No one is perfect and his employers trust him with sensitive information. They do NOT trust me. Nor should they.

I understand this and am not in the least offended by it.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 11:26 AM

Open source is all we military spouses are allowed.
ESPECIALLY when our Significant Other has a clearance, access or An Ear. If we see it in print
even from a Fake But Accurate source such as the NTY, it is all right to discuss it, because such a story may have been vetted. But if we inadvertantly get an Inside Scoop, it is all from a platform of 'non attributability.' IOW, you can't say who said what. Therefore, you have No Credibility. None.

During a couple of family briefings, I and (other spouses) was escorted out during the 'classified' portions of the brief. We were sidetracked with chocolate.

What can I say? I was weak.

Posted by: Cricket at April 23, 2008 12:19 PM

I know I'd certainly like to track down these anonymous sources and introduce them to my luxurious, comfy re-education spa and hotel. Like that f**king Daniel Ellsberg - if he hadn't leaked the Pentagon Papers, why I bet we'd STILL be "at peace" in Vietnam. Damn him to hell.

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength

Posted by: George Oh Well at April 23, 2008 12:59 PM

Yes, Mark.

Laws are for the little people, aren't they? And it's better to ask forgiveness afterwards than permission beforehand. Funny how you love that standard when applied to the press (who are unelected and unaccountable and always will be if you have anything to say about it, and who furthermore have no duty to the American people - great work if you can get it), but not the Executive branch.

Posted by: Spin, spin, spin at April 23, 2008 01:22 PM

If you ever want to know anything about anything, just call me. I seem to know it all, or so says mrs. rdr.

Posted by: spd rdr at April 23, 2008 01:23 PM

Well, she told me that, too! That you know it all, that is.


Confuscious say:

Man who know it all

Should spend more time betting at pony races.

And

Man who know it all

Should be on weather channel.

Confuscious now must go back to salt mine, put shoulder to wheel and nose to grindstone. Why?
That is a secret.

Posted by: Confuscious Brouhaha at April 23, 2008 01:45 PM

The press are actually allowed to attend classified briefings on occasion, even though they don't have security clearances. (I'll pause in case anyone's head is spinning, because I don't think that is commonly known -- but it's true.)

This requires permission from on high, and is done on a case-by-case basis: but it is possible, for example, for a respected journalist to be admitted to a Battle Update Briefing (which is normally classifed at the SECRET level) without a clearance, provided the necessary permissions are secured. This is done to provide them with situational awareness, and to demonstrate transparency: but only with journalists who have a track record that suggests they will respect the secrets, and use them only to inform their awareness of the situation they are writing about, rather than leak the classified information.

Posted by: Grim at April 23, 2008 02:15 PM

Those puny colonials who set sail for the west, looking for "religious and political freedom", whatever that is [have you ever heard of anything so ridiculously anti-authoritarian?] unfortunately ultimately adopted the so-called "first amendment" which they thought would protect them from rule by despots, tyrants and kings, by allowing the so-called "press" unfettered ability to print the "truth" about the government. In Oceania, the government controls all the media, and nothing leaks into the aether which the Inner Party wishes to restrict. It is highly preferable to the inferior system extant in the former colonies, which is impossible to control, leading to anarchy, chaos and to such pathetic attempts at information dissemination as "Dancing With The Stars", "American Idol" and, funnily enough, something called "Big Brother"! Can you imagine the irony!

Posted by: Ministry of Truth at April 23, 2008 03:11 PM

Mature people understand that there is a balance between freedom and security - you don't get unfettered freedom unless you're willing to accept (which we are not) that you may be killed and/or attacked at any moment by your fellow man. We have a social compact in which we voluntarily surrender some of our precious freedoms precisely because we can't trust our fellow men. Some of them are criminals and some of them have sworn (like al Qaeda) never to obey the laws of civilized nations.

So then it becomes a question: whom do you trust less? The government to whom you VOLUNTARILY surrendered some part of your freedoms? Or those men who have avowed total disregard for all of your rights?

To equate government with criminals is nonsense, yet the Times and the media do it all the time.

To say you can break the law because you've been anointed by God to keep our elected government from breaking the law is sheer arrogance. I didn't elect or appoint your sorry ass to "protect" me by breaking the laws I have to abide by, jerk off, and I don't buy your arguments.

One law. And the First Amendment is not without exceptions, as a lawyer well knows. So let's not conflate apples with oranges here. The Pentagon Papers decision dealt with the burden for prior restraints on publication - it didn't give the media the unqualified "right" to publish classified documents as the media dishonestly contend.

And you know that.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 03:30 PM

“ … there is a balance between freedom and security …”

This is a, maybe “the”, major controversy in our society today.

“To equate government with criminals is nonsense”
There’s an interesting, but brief, discussion over at “Outside the Beltway” (http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2008/04/are_war_crimes_inevitable/) about whether war crimes are inevitable.

“To say you can break the law because you've been anointed by God to keep our elected government from breaking the law is sheer arrogance.”

Thou sayest it.

“The Pentagon Papers decision dealt with the burden for prior restraints on publication - it didn't give the media the unqualified "right" to publish classified documents as the media dishonestly contend.”

Can you remind us exactly was it that nobody (not the NYT nor Daniel Ellsberg) was prosecuted to judgment for the publication??

"... jerk off ..."

... now that's just mean ...

Posted by: The Man Behind the Curtain at April 23, 2008 03:44 PM

correction:

"Can you remind us exactly WHY IT was it that nobody (not the NYT nor Daniel Ellsberg) was prosecuted to judgment for the publication??"

mea culpa ...

Posted by: The Man Behind the Curtain at April 23, 2008 03:46 PM

1. The 'jerk off' wasn't directed at you. Last time I checked, you weren't releasing classified documents, were you? Or did I miss something?

2. I have not said anyone can break the law. Don't put words in my mouth.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 04:13 PM

Oh, and:

3. Not being prosecuted is not an admission that something is not illegal.

People are not prosecuted for illegal things all the time. 20 years ago I sat and watched a cop not cite a woman whose kids weren't buckled up including an infant) who had just rear-ended my next door neighbor b/c she was yakking on her fricking cell phone. When asked why he didn't cite her, he responded, "Because. The judge will just let her go. It's a waste of my time."

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 04:16 PM

“ … there is a balance between freedom and security …”

Like I said, here is where the really interesting controversies lie; here where really careful thinking and balancing is needed; here, unfortunately, where we're seeing a lot of simple and erroneous, facile opinions.

Posted by: His Sorry Ass [:-p] at April 23, 2008 04:25 PM

Those, of course, being the ones that don't happen to coincide with yours.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 04:28 PM

And by the way, "sorry ass" was in the very same sentence as 'jerk off'. It requires a willing act of obtuseness to continue to pretend they were directed at you.

On the other hand, if a little careful thinking were to be applied...

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 04:31 PM

Star Jones is getting a divorce. I am going to coccon with a half gallon of Breyer's mint ice cream and ponder the state of the world.

Posted by: Cricket at April 23, 2008 04:32 PM

"Can you remind us exactly WHY IT was it that nobody (not the NYT nor Daniel Ellsberg) was prosecuted to judgment for the publication??"

In fact (at least as to Ellsberg) it was because so much law-breaking had been committed by the government in its effort to "get him" (and so much deadly governmental misrepresentation about the Vietnam conflict revealed by publication of analyses that the government had consciously withheld from the public because it was so damning of American's foreign policy toward Vietnam and south-east Asia generally) that the "wrong" committed by Ellsberg paled in comparison to the abuse of governmental power he revealed. Hooray for whistle-blowers.

Posted by: His Sorry Ass [:-p] at April 23, 2008 04:32 PM

"... On the other hand, if a little careful thinking were to be applied ..."

Methinks Milady's Freudian Slip is showing.

Posted by: His Sorry Ass [:-p] at April 23, 2008 04:33 PM

"... a lot of simple and erroneous, facile opinions ... and emotion ...


Posted by: His Sorry Ass [:-p] at April 23, 2008 04:38 PM

[please just delete the last comment, if you will]

Posted by: His Sorry Ass [:-p] at April 23, 2008 04:45 PM

No, Mark, that is not why at all. As usual you are being dishonest.

The Court found that in order to justify a burden of prior restraint on publication, the government would have to show that there was an extremely urgent level of harm to national security from the publication of the papers.

And that kind of burden is one the government can almost never prove - especially before the fact.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 04:45 PM

SCOTUS is not in the business of "evening the score", Mark. That is part of the conservative/liberal divide: you all want the Court to do far more than its Constitutional mandate actually empowers it to do (as your comment suggests).

What the Court was supposed to do was decide what the permissible CONSTITUTIONAL limits on 1st Amendment expression are. And they decided that freedom of speech is so important a right that it can only be limited in the presence of a fairly pressing threat (Congress shall make no laws abridging freedom of speech EXCEPT where necessary to protect life and limb...because let's face it - dead people have no free speech rights).

Men are fallible and SCOTUS is unelected and appointed for life. Let's not give them too much power, OK?

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 04:50 PM

“To equate government with criminals is nonsense”

We've seen countless examples where administrations have broken the law and acted in an immoral fashion (we can equate them with government, can't we; or, as the Vatican has said in response to the pedophile priest predicament, do we say that it was lawless or mistaken individuals and not the government). None of this is a new phenomenon or idea.

I'm not being dishonest; just trying to be the Devil's Advocate and stand up for the whistle blowers who DO serve a useful purpose in American society.

("Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste ....")

Posted by: Pleased to Meet You; Hope You Guess My Name at April 23, 2008 05:02 PM

Mark, let me pose you a number of situations, and you please tell me where you think it's appropriate for the press to report it:

1) A military source informs the press that 10,000 troops will be leaving by ship from New York Harbor next Tuesday, en route to Plymouth.

2) A concerned intelligence agency employee informs the press that he listened to an intercept of two al-Qaida operatives (both in England) plotting to kill Speaker Pelosi during her trip to Europe on the 24th.

3) A concerned intelligence agency employee informs the press that he listened to an intercept of two al-Qaida operatives (one in England, one in the United States) plotting to kill Speaker Pelosi during her trip to Europe on the 24th.


4) A concerned intelligence agency employee informs the press that he listened to an intercept of two al-Qaida operatives (both in the United States) plotting to kill Speaker Pelosi during her trip to Europe on the 24th.

5) A concerned intelligence agency employee informs the press that he believes an ongoing intelligence effort in Pakistan might be illegal.

6) A concerned intelligence agency employee hands a classified document to a member of the press with the names of covert agents that might be operating in Pakistan.

Does Freedom of the Press cover any of those? Also, do you believe that Freedom of the Press should protect Cass if she publishes classified documents on her website? What if she merely describes what a classified document says. Does that make it ok?

Posted by: MikeD at April 23, 2008 05:13 PM

...and we've seen countless examples of agitators with their own agenda who use allegations of criminal wrongdoing to get personal revenge or attention, or bring governments they oppose to their knees, often in the name of "whistleblowing". One of them has been in the news within the past year.

I happen to know the man. I also know (because I know the FACTS from long before he was in the news) the the press FLAT OUT LIED when they state he is a whistleblower, or that he has applied for whistleblower status.

All out and out lies. He is a muckraker who just enjoys attention and will say or do anything to get his name in the papers, and if the media were doing their jobs instead of uncritically lapping up his nonsense because it fits their narrative, they'd know this. Why doesn't he get prosecuted?

Simple. He cries "whistleblower" and it isn't worth the agony and the legal fees to fight the a**hole. Also, some people have better things to do than fight every jerk who tells lies. It's like Whack a Mole - you bat one down and there are scores more around the corner. He causes so much trouble, and his unsubstantiated smear attacks go largely unchallenged.

But then none of this is new or controversial either.

As has been widely remarked, a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on in the morning. Usually with the help of the lamestream media and their "anonymous sources". If a man isn't willing to stand behind what he says, I start to wonder.

Maybe you should, too.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 05:17 PM

I'm not being dishonest; just trying to be the Devil's Advocate and stand up for the whistle blowers who DO serve a useful purpose in American society.

Mark, I am pleased as hell to be able to tell you, I knew (and still remember) who I was supposed to report violations of USSIDs to and what constituted a violation back when I was in the service. At NO POINT in that entire list of agencies and responsible parties was the NEW YORK TIMES an authority I was to report to. Whistleblowing DOES serve a purpose and is a good thing. But blowing the whistle is NOT the same thing as running to a reporter with classified information. If I can't LEGALLY tell something to my wife, why should it be legal to tell it to Pinch Sulzberger? There ARE routes both within AND outside of the individual intelligence agencies a concerned employee can report possible violations to.

Posted by: MikeD at April 23, 2008 05:20 PM

That is a point I have made OVER and OVER and OVER again.

But some people continue to believe the law does not apply to them.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 05:26 PM

What people like Mark fail to understand is that they are dealing with exactly the same thing as false rape reports: the result of trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist to the extent that people think it does.

People passed bad laws to try and completely eliminate the burden of coming forward when a woman is being abused. But no law can do that. It still hurts. And it is still humiliating. So what they did was make it SO easy to do that now people report rape as revenge. They report it when they are not getting along. And now innocent men's lives are routinely ruined.

Same with "whistleblowing". There are all sorts of avenues to report wrongdoing, but the bottom line is: it still takes courage. No law will change that - all the law can do is shield you, to some extent, or give you a legal remedy if you are retaliated against. Going to the NY Times is NOT a solution and you still have to do the right thing.

You are not relieved of the duty to be a good person. Or to obey the law.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 05:31 PM

1) A military source informs the press that 10,000 troops will be leaving by ship from New York Harbor next Tuesday, en route to Plymouth.

Not OK to publish: info about troop movement is the classic case of permissible prior restraint.

2) A concerned intelligence agency employee informs the press that he listened to an intercept of two al-Qaida operatives (both in England) plotting to kill Speaker Pelosi during her trip to Europe on the 24th.

OK to publish – no “clear and present danger”.

3) A concerned intelligence agency employee informs the press that he listened to an intercept of two al-Qaida operatives (one in England, one in the United States) plotting to kill Speaker Pelosi during her trip to Europe on the 24th.

OK to publish – no “clear and present danger”. I’m seeing a pattern here.

4) A concerned intelligence agency employee informs the press that he listened to an intercept of two al-Qaida operatives (both in the United States) plotting to kill Speaker Pelosi during her trip to Europe on the 24th.

OK to publish – no “clear and present danger”.

5) A concerned intelligence agency employee informs the press that he believes an ongoing intelligence effort in Pakistan might be illegal.

OK to publish – no “clear and present danger”, unless to do so would reveal the identities of covert agents, whose lives would be put at risk by the disclosure, then not OK.

6) A concerned intelligence agency employee hands a classified document to a member of the press with the names of covert agents that might be operating in Pakistan.

Not OK to publish, because publication would reveal the identities of covert agents, whose lives would be put at risk by the disclosure.

There ARE routes both within AND outside of the individual intelligence agencies a concerned employee can report possible violations to.

If you read up on the Ellsberg-Pentagon incident, you’ll see that he repeatedly went through approved channels and he was ignored. And had it not been for the aforementioned “law-breaking … committed by the government in its effort to "get him"”, Ellsberg would have been successfully prosecuted for his disclosure. He says he thought long and hard about the possible personal consequences before he revealed anything to the press, but decided to go public because The Pentagon had concluded that the war effort could not be successful for many complicated reasons, and was in some instances outright illegal, but the analysis was being ignored by the administration and many thousands of people (Americans, Vietnamese, Cambodians) would certainly die as a result of the administration’s foreign policy.

That these are difficult cases and no one easy solution covers them all.

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 05:43 PM

"...and we've seen countless examples of agitators with their own agenda who use allegations of criminal wrongdoing to get personal revenge or attention, or bring governments they oppose to their knees, often in the name of 'whistleblowing'".

so they should be nailed to the cross (so to speak)

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 05:46 PM

"To equate government with criminals is nonsense."

Twitch. Twitch.

I'm being so good. O:)

Posted by: Grim at April 23, 2008 05:48 PM

What people like Mark fail to understand ..."

Villainous Company's vast editorial staff knows me so well that it knows everything about me, to the deepest, inner-most recesses of my psyche.

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 05:48 PM

People passed bad laws to try and completely eliminate the burden of coming forward when a woman is being abused. But no law can do that. It still hurts. And it is still humiliating. So what they did was make it SO easy to do that now people report rape as revenge. They report it when they are not getting along. And now innocent men's lives are routinely ruined.

There will always by people [men and womyn] who will lie, who will harm other people, physically, emotionally, psychologically, etc. ad infinitum. The pendulum swings in reaction to innocent womyns' lives being routinely ruined, and maybe it swings too far; it will swing back. This is a process, not an event - we learn from our mistakes and we do better next time, hopefully.

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 05:54 PM

But women (like men) aren't above the law.

Neither should the press be, and that is what shield laws do - they place the press above the law. This is wrong - they allow the media to substitute their judgment for that of a grand jury or a judge and jury and lets them come between the law and breakers of it.

Wrong. Politicians are not above the law. They may escape it, but they aren't above it. Only journalists are seeking to have laws passed that exempt them from the same laws the rest of us have to obey. And in the age of blogging and citizen journalism, you ought to contemplate the consequences of shield laws extremely carefully.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 05:58 PM

No Grim. I am counting on your good sense.

It is monstrously unfair to tar everyone with the same broad brush and I know you to be a fair man. Public servants are like everyone else. Some are good, others less so. It's really easy to sit back and carp when you don't do their jobs. I've sat here and watched my own neighbors bitching about the neighborhood board of directors, but they don't put in the many long hours of work and study on local issues that these guys do. I wouldn't put up with the crap these men put up with, and it's a volunteer position.

They didn't create the problems we face in our development and they're at least trying to solve them, but what thanks do they get? A bunch of nasty, whining, ill informed free loaders, that's what. None of the people criticizing them have the slightest grasp of the depth of the problems they're grappling with, yet carp they do!

Amazing. Much of what looks like malfeasance is often just people not really understanding what is going on.

And yes - some of it is people not doing the best job in the world. But also often problems are far more intractable than they might appear to be on the surface. Everyone has a simple solution... until they try to save the world single-handed armed with nothing more than a dry martini and a paper clip. They they find out is wasn't that easy.

Surprise!

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 06:05 PM

The marital evidentiary privilege permits a spouse to refuse to testify against her husband (and permits the no-good, despicable a-hole husband to bar her testimony) because society thinks that the harm to society that would result from disregard of the confidentiality of the marital relationship is greater than the harm to the judicial process from barring the testimony. The attorney-client privilege is based on a similar idea, that preserving the confidentiality of the A-C relationship benefits society and its judicial processes more than breaching it would benefit it. There are other rules which operate to eliminate the privilege, such as if the lawyer facilitates her client's subornation of perjury.

The news reporter's shield law is based on much the same belief: that the benefit of a free press to society outweighs harm that may result from it.

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 06:16 PM

What you say about things always being more complicated than they look from outside is certainly true.

Now, in terms of that fairness of mine, I think I have to say that I find this position illogical:

"Neither should the press be [above the law], and that is what shield laws do - they place the press above the law. "

It seems to me that passing a law in the legal fashion, one that alters the existing law, isn't "putting them above the law," but applying the law. By the same token, the tremendous protections they enjoy under the First Amendment exist as a practical matter because we wrote a law about it: the First Amendment.

"Above the law" means that, say, a mafia don can carry out murder without fear of prosecution, because the law won't touch him. If you actually pass a law that says, "WHEREAS the State of New York finds the peace and good order on the docks at night to be a pleasant contrast to the pre-mafia days, THEREFORE Don Joseph or his appointed representatives may kill any persons they feel necessary, other sections of the laws of the State of New York notwithstanding," then you're not putting him above the law. You're bringing him within it.

It's a terrible law, of course; and a terrible idea. But what we have NOW is a situation where the press is "above the law" -- they break the law every day, and nothing is done. What is proposed is to bring this conduct within the law.

Now, if you say: "We're better off not changing the law in this way," I agree with that position entirely. What we should be doing is prosecuting the leakers, in particular, with great vigor and little mercy.

Posted by: Grim at April 23, 2008 06:19 PM

"To equate government with criminals is nonsense."
Twitch. Twitch.
I'm being so good. O:)
Posted by: Grim at April 23, 2008 05:48 PM

No Grim. I am counting on your good sense.
Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 06:05 PM

Yea, Grim - don't hold back.

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 06:19 PM

Well, all right, George:

By the same token as what I said above, the very demand for a shield law proves conclusively that the press knows it is breaking the existing law.

They are in the position of the mafia don who says, "Don't you like how orderly things are on the docks?" You can say, "Yes, we do like that (or, in terms of the press, the watchdog capacity); but still, we feel that you should be prosecuted for all these murders. It's possible we can find a way to improve the safety of the docks short of licensing your continued daily violation of the law.

Posted by: Grim at April 23, 2008 06:25 PM

By the same token as what I said above, the very demand for a shield law proves conclusively that the press knows it is breaking the existing law.

Careful Grim - this is starting to sound like a discussion of the administration's insistence on immunity for telecommuncations companies being added to the wire-tap law.

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 06:31 PM

... instead, maybe it proves that there is uncertainty under the existing law and that a specific provision creating a news reporter's privilege (which exists under many state laws, btw) would eliminate the uncertainty. Concern to eliminate uncertainty is not the same as an admission that the law has been broken.

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 06:34 PM

Ref. the government/criminal thing, above. I normally expect to find that politicians have broken the law for some expedient purpose; that appears to me to be the usual state of affairs.

Of course, Presidents have the power to pardon: like the First Amendment, it's a perfectly legal power, written into the system, that appears to license Presidents to do whatever they feel is necessary subject only to political (rather than legal) ramifications. If you don't like how they use it, you can impeach them and remove them from office -- but that is all you can do, according to the law.

Posted by: Grim at April 23, 2008 06:36 PM

All this reminds me of something a law professor once told his class: "For every problem, there is a simple and erroneous solution".

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 06:39 PM

I'm merely telling you what I think the law does say, not what I think it should say. I believe the Founders set it up this way for the same reason they strictly limited the concept of "treason" in the Constitution -- because they had seen the law used for vengeance in political matters dating to the English Civil War (and, indeed, before).

So, instead of resolving a political dispute by arresting the government and hanging them, which leads quickly to civil war, we are limited to removing them from office at the uttermost. None of which puts them "above the law" -- this is the law.

Posted by: Grim at April 23, 2008 06:44 PM

Several members of the press have admitted knowingly applying a double standard to themselves that they are unwilling to grant to our elected leaders. Also they have openly admitted that they know what they are doing is hypocritical and wrong. They excuse it with an "end justifies the means" argument: the one Keith Olbermann uses: i.e., "we're are war and we'll do whatever we have to do to win".

The funny thing is, they're at war with our current President, whom we elected. He (along with a great many of their fellow citizens) is at war with al Qaeda.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 06:48 PM

And, to extend Cassandra's statement, the President actually is licensed to command a war and to pardon violations of the law. The press is not licensed to do either. Insofar as they have broken existing law, they should answer in court.

Posted by: Grim at April 23, 2008 06:51 PM

But attorney/client privilege isn't an absolute privilege -- there are limits, such as the crime-fraud exception. Reporters want to have an unqualified right to privileged communication that doesn't exist between any other profession and their clients, even when it shields criminals both before, during, and after the commission of crimes.

That fails any sensible balancing test.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 06:53 PM

"... the President actually is licensed to command a war ..."

I believe that the Constitution places some restrictions on this as well.

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 06:54 PM

Reporters want to have an unqualified right to privileged communication that doesn't exist between any other profession and their clients, even when it shields criminals both before, during, and after the commission of crimes.

This obviously will be debated. To say that there should be no shield law oversimplifies the problem and does not sufficiently recognize the concern about press restrictions which motivated the adoption of the First Amendment protections by the Founding Fathers (or their successors, since I'm not prepared to speak to the chronology of the amendment.)

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 06:59 PM

Especially when this Anonymous Source just "happens" to have a nifty draft copy of a classified document he'll gladly grant the reporter access to!

And sneaking a nifty draft of a *bogus* classified document to a suspected leaker is the time-honored method of catching the leaker.

If Jimmeh Cottuh had had the brains to do that, there would never have been an October Surprise...

Posted by: BillT at April 23, 2008 07:02 PM

"To say that there should be no shield law oversimplifies the problem and does not sufficiently recognize the concern about press restrictions which motivated the adoption of the First Amendment protections by the Founding Fathers."

Again, that is not logical. The particular concerns that motivated the Founding Fathers have beeen addressed: by the First Amendment.

Posted by: Grim at April 23, 2008 07:08 PM

Exactly.

And there aren't exactly scads of reporters sitting in jail now, are there? In fact, we have the opposite problem: reporters openly flouting laws passed by Congress.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 07:10 PM

"The particular concerns that motivated the Founding Fathers have been addressed: by the First Amendment.

I think that that statement is too broad: it would mean that there may be NO prior restraints at all, not even for publication of troop movements, because the text of the First Amendment contemplates no prior restraints. The exceptions to the per se rule have come from SCOTUS judicial decisions, which have referred to experience and common sense in carving them out. As such, I suggest that it overstates the matter to say that the text of the First Amendment alone is sufficient to address all the concerns that motivated the drafters.

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 07:18 PM

This makes me think that I could profitably brush up on my First Amendment jurisprudence.

Posted by: George O. Well at April 23, 2008 07:19 PM

Really good discussion, I'm enjoying it. Miss Cassie, what's with this? "20 years ago I sat and watched a cop not cite a woman whose kids weren't buckled up including an infant) who had just rear-ended my next door neighbor b/c she was yakking on her fricking cell phone." Were there cell phones in 1988? Closet I saw any animal like that was a satellite phone I used in Bahrain with the Navy in 1992. Just wondering.

Posted by: lutonmoore at April 23, 2008 08:59 PM

Yes, there were cell phones in 1988:

http://techiest.wordpress.com/2007/07/04/cell-phones-history/

Though my '20 years' was give or take a year or two. I remember the duty station where we lived when that happened, though not the exact year so it could have been any time within a three year time span.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 23, 2008 09:33 PM

Manischewitz!

I knew that I should not have attempted to write yesterday. Not one of my better days :p

How many typos did I have in this post? I can't believe I was still finding them this morning.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 24, 2008 07:05 AM

yeah, there were cell phones in 1988. They came with a briefcase, cost about $2000, and looked like this. I know because my boss at my first job bought one in '88 and was envy of the water cooler crowd. Five years later, I was given a company cell phone (going rate 400 bucks in 1990 dollars) but at $.75 per minute of talk time it was too costly to use outside of work except for emergencies. Not many folks I knew had a personal cell phone before the mid 90s. They were just too damn expensive, and reception sucked outside of major cities.

Posted by: BIG PHONE at April 24, 2008 08:50 AM

I am pretty sure (because I thought about this last night while I was trying to go to sleep) that this would have had to be closer to 1990-1 than 1988 because I was in school - college - at the time and I don't think I started classes until 1990. It was a long time ago.

I do remember it though, because it stood out in my mind that someone would actually have a phone in their car and we were all standing around the intersection staring into her BMW. Also, I was extremely upset that she wasn't cited when there was a baby in the car.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 24, 2008 09:05 AM

Man I hate only being able to post here during daylight hours:

1) A military source informs the press that 10,000 troops will be leaving by ship from New York Harbor next Tuesday, en route to Plymouth.

Not OK to publish: info about troop movement is the classic case of permissible prior restraint.

Nice to know that some information can be considered protected at least.

2) A concerned intelligence agency employee informs the press that he listened to an intercept of two al-Qaida operatives (both in England) plotting to kill Speaker Pelosi during her trip to Europe on the 24th.

OK to publish – no “clear and present danger”.

Congratulations you are now aiding and abetting a felon as well as trafficking in classified information. Do you even understand why such information would be classified? Do you KNOW why they bother putting those little "SECRET" and "TOP SECRET" stamps on information like that? People DIE, DIE Mark, when information like that gets out. But I guess it's ok for folks to lose their lives as long as some reporter thinks it's ok, right?

3) A concerned intelligence agency employee informs the press that he listened to an intercept of two al-Qaida operatives (one in England, one in the United States) plotting to kill Speaker Pelosi during her trip to Europe on the 24th.

OK to publish – no “clear and present danger”. I’m seeing a pattern here.

See above. But the pretty part of this is that what I just described is pretty much the 'domestic spying' that Congress has been on about. Again, some employee thinks that it's illegal, and alerts the press, without knowing that the Administration HAS Congressional approval and is briefing the House Intelligence Committee on a regular basis. But what the hell, it's only people's lives at stake. Well, that and good circulation numbers for the Times. That excuses it.

4) A concerned intelligence agency employee informs the press that he listened to an intercept of two al-Qaida operatives (both in the United States) plotting to kill Speaker Pelosi during her trip to Europe on the 24th.

OK to publish – no “clear and present danger”.

Funny, this is perfectly legal for the FBI to do, and now you've poisoned an ongoing criminal investigation. Great job! You're going to get these scumbags off because of your reporting.

5) A concerned intelligence agency employee informs the press that he believes an ongoing intelligence effort in Pakistan might be illegal.

OK to publish – no “clear and present danger”, unless to do so would reveal the identities of covert agents, whose lives would be put at risk by the disclosure, then not OK.

So wait... it's ok to divulge classified information that BY DEFINITION causes "harm" "great harm" or "severe harm to national securty" when divulged, but it's NOT if the reported KNOWS it will reveal identities? In what world does it make sense to put the lives of sources and methods at risk but only if doing so won't put the lives of individual agents at risk?

6) A concerned intelligence agency employee hands a classified document to a member of the press with the names of covert agents that might be operating in Pakistan.

Not OK to publish, because publication would reveal the identities of covert agents, whose lives would be put at risk by the disclosure.

See above. You don't realize it, but #5 and #6 are (risk wise) IDENTICAL. Just because individual names are on the document does NOT mean those lives are at any greater or lesser risk. The name "Joseph Dominick Pistone" meant nothing at all to the mob. "Donnie Brasco" did. But simply having PRESS CONFIRMATION THAT THEY'VE BEEN INFILTRATED... do you understand why I'm so damned mad here... the simple fact that the PRESS tells them they've been infiltrated is no more or less dangerous to the agent than his given name.

In literally every single item I listed (yes, it was a trick exam), the press publishing that information could lead directly to the deaths of US citizens or to the complete loss of intelligence sources that protect US citizens. And in every single case, the source of that information was guilty of espionage against the United States, and in my belief, by transmitting that classified information, the press is not only aiding and abetting, but PARTICIPATING in espionage. Please look up the statute (as you're the lawyer). I seem to recall a clause in there about "transmitting" classified information.

Mark. I am VERY severe about this, because it IS hideously serious. Men and women lose their lives over this stuff. Not their jobs... their LIVES. And all for some newspaper's circulation? Can you honestly tell me it's worth it?

Posted by: MikeD at April 24, 2008 10:23 AM

What is also bad about this is that the press have absolutely no way to judge what information may be useful to enemy intelligence services (i.e., dangerous to ours), and yet they presume to substitute their completely ignorant judgment for that of people who do know, even when it may cost lives. And their best argument is, "Fine. Prove it's dangerous and maybe we'll stop."

Of course the only way to prove it is dangerous is to expose the information. And they know that, so the contest will always be rigged in their favor.

And then their excuse is, "Well these guys knew what they were signing up for when they were hired.".

Funny. It's like the military - they know they are taking the risk of fighting the enemy (and yes, the U.S. does have enemies). They just never thought they'd have to fight their own country too.

I wrote what I thought was a very good post about the Espionage Act a long time ago. I don't like most of my posts, but that one was good. It took a fair amount of research.

*sigh*

Posted by: Cassandra at April 24, 2008 10:38 AM

The question I have is where is the line drawn, and who draws it, on the periphery of the 1st ammendment and anarchy? How much abuse does our system take before it rises up and declares "Enough is enough?"

In a world of assymetrical warfare, political and otherwise, how is the systemic rot controlled? We have a democratically elected President who is being undermined, as are those who elected him, by those infected with BDS and their belief that their end justifies their means?

Isn't that exactly what our enemies (Muslim jihadists) are doing to our way of life? The definition of 'clear and present danger' in an age of assymetry needs to be broadened with the times.

Posted by: vet66 at April 24, 2008 10:51 AM

Mark. I am VERY severe about this, because it IS hideously serious. Men and women lose their lives over this stuff. Not their jobs... their LIVES. And all for some newspaper's circulation? Can you honestly tell me it's worth it?"

I am serious too, and the lives at stake are important. Ellsberg states that his rationale for giving the NYT the Pentagon Papers included his thought that he could prevent the loss of more lives (American, Vietnamese, Cambodian) by forcing the government to acknowledge to America that its own advisors in the Pentagon had concluded that the efforts in South-East Asia were ill-advised and should be curtailed. Can you admit that with newspapers, there is something more involved than just circulation numbers? Unfortunately, nothing is as simple as we would like.

Posted by: George O. Well at April 24, 2008 12:59 PM

Ahhh yes...St. Daniel of Ellsberg..
patron saint of Cambodians and Vietnamese..to name a few...

Posted by: Mrs. When in doubt..Fire at April 24, 2008 03:49 PM

"Ahhh yes...St. Daniel of Ellsberg ... patron saint of Cambodians and Vietnamese..to name a few..."
Posted by: Mrs. When in doubt..Fire at April 24, 2008 03:49 PM

One is inclined to think that Daniel Ellsberg was closer to the situation in South-East Asia (to wit, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) than "Mrs. When in doubt..Fire": Ellsberg's boots [and feet] walked the halls at Rand Corporation, at the Pentagon and in Vietnam (at least, if not also in Cambodia and Laos). While Mrs. WIDF have been in Vietnam, one doubts that s/he was employed by the Pentagon/Rand to study and report to the Pentagon on the situation in Vietnam.

Ellsberg had impeccable military credentials prior to his disclosure of the "Pentagon papers".

Accordingly, one suspects that Mrs. WIDF is just blowing snarky smoke, and doesn't really have anything substantive to add to the discussion of the interplay between the First Amendment and government and military secrets.

Just a guess, though: one is ready to read any substantive comment Mrs. WIDF may be able or care to make.

Posted by: Minitrue at April 24, 2008 06:32 PM

"While Mrs. WIDF MAY have been in Vietnam, ..." is what the Ministry of Truth meant to say.

Posted by: Minitrue at April 24, 2008 06:41 PM

Yeah.

I'll bet Ellsburg was "close" to what was going on in those Vietnamese reeducation camps. He was probably right up there with Saigon John Kerry, who just a year or two ago was still lying to America about how there were no mass killings after the fall of Saigon.

Or Hanoi Chris Dodd, who assured America that the most "wonderful" gift we could give to the Vietnamese people would be "peace".

Right. I wonder if the parents of my classmate, whose parents were murdered by the incoming Communists, enjoyed that "peace"? At least they got their infant son out of that "peaceful" Vietnam before they disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again.

Dangerous people, academics. They know too much. They are usually the first to die.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 24, 2008 06:50 PM

So much for 'impeccable military credentials'.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 24, 2008 06:51 PM

These are interesting but irrelevant personal anecdotes, which unfortunately do not address the following:

(1) Ellsberg's credentials;

(2) Ellsberg's service in Vietnam;

(3) Ellsberg's work for Rand;

(4) Ellsberg's work for the Pentagon;

(5) The fact that "nearly everyone in the Defense and State Departments felt, as [Ellsberg] did, that the United States had no realistic chance of achieving victory in Vietnam, but that political considerations prevented them from saying so publicly [while Secretary of Defense Robert] McNamara and others continued to state in press interviews that victory was 'just around the corner.'"

(6) The fact that the government had knowledge, early on, that the war would not likely be won, and that continuing the war would lead to many times more casualties than was ever admitted publicly.

(7) That Ellsberg knew that releasing the papers violated the trust placed in him by his colleagues, would damage reputations and would most likely result in his conviction and a lengthy prison sentence.

(8) That Ellsberg publicly surrendered to the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts in Boston, and was taken into custody believing he would spend the rest of his life in prison (he was charged with theft, conspiracy, and espionage).

Posted by: Minitrue at April 24, 2008 07:23 PM

"If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, attack your opponent personally."

[with apologies to Carl Sandburg, in The People, Yes (1936)]

Posted by: Minitrue at April 24, 2008 07:42 PM

Mark, what in the hell are you talking about?

No one "attacked Ellsberg personally".

Stop making things up. It was pointed out that genocide followed our withdrawal from Vietnam. That is a historical fact.

Your quote, like Ellsburg's "credentials", have no bearing on that fact, and your contention that he somehow knew more about what was going on in Vietnam is ridiculous. History says otherwise.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 24, 2008 07:51 PM

Mrs. when in doubt fire was indeed fairly close to what was going on..
her father and her uncle were involved..

and what minitrue neglects to address is what happened after St. Ellsberg disclosed the Pentagon papers and the NY Times published them.
the hundreds of thousands..no..millions of people affected by our pulling out of Vietnam..

It's fairly funny to me that there is no personal responsibility for what happened after.
As now, with all the leaks.., there is no personal involvement and no responsibiility.
Just the giddiness of pulling a fast one on.

Yeehaw...wish I lived in that world where there were no ramifications for what I did or didn't do.
I live in the real world.

Piss off, Mark..you had nothing at stake then and you have nothing at stake now..


Posted by: Mrs. When in doubt..Fire at April 24, 2008 07:56 PM

There will always be people "affected" (positive and negative) by governments and their policies.

If we leave our "cynical" glasses on, it looks as though VC and Mrs. WIDF think that the only lives that matter when we're talking about this, however, are the lives of themselves and those of their friends and families, apparently because they see them as more valuable than the lives lost by the people whose countries the USA invaded when the USA saw "communists" under the beds in Vietnam and went in to prop up the corrupt dregs of the dying French colonial system.

The lives of your friends, families and selves ARE valuable and important. But doesn't the US have a responsibility to see the bigger picture when we're talking about the lives of other people?

There is no dispute that people died after the USA pulled out of Vietnam. They shouldn't have died. People (maybe different people) would have died if the USA had NOT pulled out when it did. How many people died because the USA went into Vietnam in the first place?

Does the fact that the USA made a mistake (albeit in good faith, at least up to a point) up by starting the USA-era Vietnam war mean that we had an obligation to stay in longer and continue it? That is just insanity.

Posted by: Minitrue at April 24, 2008 08:35 PM

The Ministry of Truth was just trying to point out that whistle blowers and their unnamed sources sometimes bring about positive changes.

Ellsberg was ready to be punished for leaking the Pentagon papers, so it is nonsense to insinuate that he didn't accept personal responsibility for his crime.

The enthusiasm which some of the commentators here express for "merciless" punishment of whistle blowers seems to elevate fealty to "obedience" over fealty to "conscience" when considering these difficult issues.

That is insanity too, because when the time comes to "meet one's maker" it isn't going to fly to offer the excuse that one was just "following orders".

Or at least those of us "waiting in joyful hope" want to think that the maker will look beyond that.

Posted by: Ministry of Love at April 24, 2008 08:42 PM

You can twist until the cows come home but what happened did..and who assisted in making that happen deserve all the blame they get.

Who wanted to stay and make things right don't deserve to be blamed or spit upon.Not then...not now...

You assumed falsely that I didn't have anything in the game and I called you on it. And you rolled the goalposts someplace else.
As usual.

You're an ass....


Posted by: Mrs. When in doubt..Fire at April 24, 2008 09:10 PM

I'm wandering off tangent here but I wanted to say something that's been bugging me for months. So here goes. I just saw Kerry mentioned which brings back "Swiftboating." The media portray he and his dozen crewmen as big heroes, but about 240+ other men (many highly decorated) in that squadron as liars. But take it past that point. As a Sailor aand a Coastie I was on ships and boats. Anytime you're tied up with other vessels you're talking to other crewmen. There are no secrets in that situation, everybody knows what's going on on the other "boats." I'd imagine that Kerry was "laying up" in the firefights and his crew appreciated not having to get shot at like the other guys did. Just my feeling. Reminds me of when Sargeant Shriver accused the Navy of shooting down that airliner (Flight 800?) off Long Island some years ago. I laughed my buttocks off when I heard that. No way in this world a sailor could keep that secret, sailors are the biggest gossips in the world. Sorry I drifted off topic!

Posted by: lutonmoore at April 24, 2008 09:47 PM

Note:
Unsolicited emails sent by certain unrepentant bedwetting, knuckledragging, nosepicking, mouthbreathing individuals are deleted without being read..regardless of subject or intent.

Posted by: Mrs. When in doubt..Fire at April 25, 2008 08:28 AM

It would appear that while I was out abusing the labor force with my ISO 9000:2000 cattle prod yesterday, a royal booty kicking took place over the usual first amendment protections versus the right to divulge state secrets topic.

I agree with MikeD ( I believe it was MikeD). If I'd ever revealed any info to which I was exposed while I had clearances and access, I would have fully expected to be imprisoned and/or keel-hauled and/or shot. I would expect no less to be done to any other person who would do so. I recently came across all my clearance paperwork in a file and it says as much in legalese.

As has been mentioned, conscience and individual judgments are fine in the scope of the individual's domain, but the bigger picture might merit that said conscientious individual take the action to bring evidence of perceived injustices up the ladder, pecking order and/or chain of command as it were.

If a person's conscience compels them to break the law and put the security of our nation at risk through an unauthorized action like sharing classified information with the NYT, or any unauthorized individual, enterprise or government, then I'm all for allowing them to be fully invested in the action in a manner to match their desires of glory and martyrdom. One hundred percent, with or without a blindfold. Their choice. After a trial and guilty verdict is rendered, of course.

Well, gotta run... time to resume the abuse of the labor force before they break for lunch.

Posted by: bt_Hang'emHigh_hun at April 25, 2008 10:56 AM

The VC Editorial Staff has posed an excellent piece on Conscience and Integrity above, just after the cute dog picture: "Comfortably Dumb".

Query: How many of you can explain the pun in the title?

Posted by: Ministry of Love at April 25, 2008 12:05 PM

" ... has POSTED ..."

Posted by: Ministry of Love at April 25, 2008 12:29 PM

"It would appear that while I was out abusing the labor force with my ISO 9000:2000 cattle prod yesterday, a royal booty kicking took place over the usual first amendment protections versus the right to divulge state secrets topic."

Some commentators think Mrs. WIDF conceded defeat when s/he revealed that s/he had nothing on topic to say other than "You're an ass ...." But reasonable minds may differ on that assessment [npi]

Posted by: Ministry of Truth at April 25, 2008 12:48 PM

Query: How many of you can explain the pun in the title?

Nobody?

Posted by: Ministry of Truth at April 25, 2008 01:08 PM

Post a comment

To reduce comment spam, comments on older posts are put into moderation 5 days after the last activity. Comments with more than one link also go into moderation. If you don't see your comment after posting it, try refreshing the screen. If you still don't see it, your comment is probably in the moderation queue.




Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)