Jail for Judith Miller?

I know we’re all supposed to hate Judith Miller, but she is absolutely on the right side in her current battle with the Justice Department. And the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear her case is a dangerous blow to freedom, as Miller’s employer, the New York Times notes in an editorial today:

Striking a blow at the press

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Journalism suffered a harmful setback when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the case of two reporters who have been threatened with jail for declining to reveal their sources. The reporters had been questioned by a grand jury investigating the unmasking of an undercover CIA officer whose husband had run afoul of the Bush administration.

It can be a crime for a federal official to knowingly reveal the identity of a covert agent. Yet somehow the case evolved to focus on the reporters, who did nothing wrong. Now that the Supreme Court has refused to consider the case, the reporters face up to 18 months in jail for refusing to reveal their confidential sources to a grand jury.

One of the reporters, Judith Miller of The New York Times, never wrote an article about the case. Still, Miller faces jail along with Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, who did write about the agent, Valerie Plame, but focused on the motivations that may have lain behind her unmasking.

The government has every right to investigate whether a crime might have been committed. But in the process, it has done more harm than good when the prosecutor inexplicably switched gears and began threatening to punish Miller and Cooper for declining to reveal their sources.

American history is full of examples of whistle-blowers who were able to inform the public of malfeasance only through reporters who were able to guarantee them confidentiality. The federal courts’ assault on this tradition could have a chilling effect on their future willingness to speak up. We stand with Miller and Cooper in defending the word of a working reporter, and the public interest.

These reporters are being hung out to dry for the Bush administration’s own failings, as Editor & Publisher June 27 quotes Ambassador Joseph Wilson, husband of the intelligence agent who’s identity was at issue:

Joseph Wilson Responds to Decision in Plame Case

By E&P Staff

NEW YORK Ambassador Joseph Wilson, husband of former CIA operative Valerie Plame, who is at the center of the controversial case, released the following statement today, in response to the Supreme Court decision to not hear appeals from reporters Judith Miller and Matt Cooper. They are refusing to name sources in the White House/CIA leak case.

“That two reporters may now have to go to jail is a direct consequence of President Bush’s refusal to hold his administration accountable for the compromise of the identity of a CIA officer, Valerie (Plame) Wilson.

“Had he enforced his edict that all members of his administration cooperate fully with the Justice Department investigation, we would not be where we are today.

“Equally, some senior administration officials who spoke to Matt Cooper and Judy Miller today cravenly stand by while the two journalists face jail time because of a conversation they had with them. It is an act of extraordinary cowardice that those officials not step forward to accept responsibility for their actions.”

See our last post on the case.