Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Don't worry too much about freedom of the press

Here's the story the press is hyperventilating about:

A federal judge today ordered Judith Miller of The New York Times to be jailed immediately after she again refused to cooperate with a grand jury investigating the disclosure of the identity of a covert C.I.A. operative.
I heard an NPR reporter today doing an op-ed about the fact that this is the end of freedom of the press as we know it. Not so fast, Mr. Reporter. If memory serves me correctly -- and I'm very willing to be told otherwise -- the court's decision to imprison a reporter who is withholding a source under these circumstances is entirely consistent with law. I have a distinct memory of one of my law professors (Constitutional? Criminal?), many moons ago, telling a group of surprised first year law students that members of the press can indeed be imprisoned under certain circumstances for withholding information. We were stunned. If that was the case, why wasn't it happening more often? The professor told us that reporters routinely chose to go to jail, rather than to reveal their source. That solidarity eventually made it plain that, while imprisonment might be the law, it was utterly pointless to imprison reporters. It was a classic case of mass civil disobedience. In this regard, Judith Miller, by going to jail, is joining an honorable lineage of reporters who put their belief in their freedoms ahead of their comfort.