So Much for Journalist Shields


The whole case against Scooter Libby turns on his conversations with Tim Russert, Matt Cooper and Judith Miller; most of the juiciest evidence against him appears to have come from Miller. I think Kevin Drum is right when he says: "Apparently Libby figured he'd never be caught out because the reporters would stay mum and go to jail on his behalf. He lost that bet."

Now, journalist-shield laws usually have some exemption for conversations that in and of themselves constitute a crime. But Libby's conversations with reporters (so far, at least) are not the criminal events; it was his lying to the FBI and under oath about the content of those conversations which was illegal. His only protection was promises of confidentiality by journalists he lied about under oath.

All of which to say is, whatever political oxygen was pumping up the idea of a federal shield law certainly got deflated today. Not only is there the reporter-friendly outcome of a key White House aide being charged with multiple felonies, but all indications point to a powerful sleazebag trying to launder his lies with journalism traditions exercised by despised reporters.

Speaking of which, I wonder if Judy still considers Scooter a "good-faith source," in light of his weasel-words in this Sept. 15 letter to her in jail: "[T]he public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me."