Press Suffers In Judith Miller Imprisonment
My impression is that the Judith Miller imprisonment has cost a lot in terms of press rights.
After 85 days, Miller's appaent source in the outing of the CIA agent Valerie Plame,
Lew Libby, aide to Vice President Cheney, gave her permission to testify. It probably doesn't mean he will be indicted, because the whole matter by this time is sufficiently complicated not to have any bad consequences for him. Too much remains unclear to bring any charges. And it's evident President Bush is going to take a walk on his pledge to fire the leakers.
But the overall effect is to compromise, and badly, the press assurance of confidentiality to sources of all kinds. How many tipsters will there be, if they realize they are going to be responsible for reporters going to jail, unless they give them permission to talk.
This was a tempest in a teapot, but its implications for the future are severe. I think it's likely certain kinds of information from official circles is going to dry up.
And there is now a precedent in the courts for throwing reporters standing on First Amendment rights in jail. This has weakened the constitutional protections journalists have always had, and given lawyers and judges, mostly dishonest, unscrupulous people, new domination for the press.
Altogether a bad deal.