Sunday, July 03, 2005

Time Magazine Cops Out In Battle With The Courts

Written from Beaver Creek, the Yukon, on the Alaska Highway --

It is a great disappointment to see Time Magazine give up its fight over use of anonymous sources, by turning over reporter Matt Cooper's notes to the corrupt American justice system.

Just a few weeks ago, Time Inc. Editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstine had written an eloquent essay in Time defending the right of reporters under the First Amendment and various shield laws to defend the confidentiality of their sources.

Now, Pearlstine says, in response to the cowardly U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to so much as take up the case, that turning over the notes "is an appropriate thing to do, having fought very hard" to defend its position.

"It wasn't about the size of the fine, even about Matt going to jail," says Pearlstine, as quoted in USA Today. Cooper, he says, "may still end up" going to jail. "But I could not make the distinction that said: We are somehow above the law. Now, if that's caving. so be it."

It is caving, Mr. Pearlstine, and you should have resigned your position rather than be party to such a sell out.

The New York Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., expressed disappointment in Time's surrender and indicated the New York Times would not be prepared to take a similar position in defending its reporter, also under threat of a jail term, Judith Miller.

This is a case about the use of anonymous sources by columnist Robert Novak in identifying a CIA agent, Valerie Plame in a case related to the U.S. attack against Saddam Hussein. But very strangely the Justice Department has not gone after Novak at all, when it is he who printed the information. Maybe, that's because Novak is normally a defender of the Bush Administration.

I once had a professor at Dartmouth, the late Arthur Wilson, who had worked for the OSS during World War II. He used to tell his students, in the matter of the courts and the law, "Just remember, gentlemen, everything the Nazies did was strictly legal according to German law."

In other words, the law is what the usually corrupt legal profession says it is, and, like as not, it is a travesty.

The proper course for Mr. Pearlstine would have been to continue to resist, letting his organization be driven to the poorhouse through fines and all his reporters to jail, rather than give in, until the Supreme Court gave in and agreed to enforce the First Amendment.

Meanwhile, reforms are needed. So-called "justices," should not serve life terms. Perhaps, they should be elected. What is becoming evident, year by year, is that it is indeed a corrupt institution, disloyal to the Constitution.

It's funny how these high mucky mucks in journalism like Mr. Pearlstine, so often haven't got the courage of their convictions. Name any reporter at Times magazine, and the likelihood is, he or she would have had more guts to do the right thing.

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