Not So Plain Dealing

Originally posted 2005-07-10 10:12:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Instapundit links to this teef-gnashing item from Michael Silence about this super-secret scandal, based on leaked documents, that the Cleveland Plain Dealer would for sure be investigating and breaking wide open ‘cept that those meanies on the Supreme Court make you go to jail if you won’t tell a criminal investigation who illegally leaked the documents you based your story on.Sorry, Professor, the real story is in the comments of the Silence piece. (Insert obligatory “silence” pun here.) I have excerpted some here but edited them for this blog’s delicacy standards. These are just the first bunch, chosen at random. I have added emphasis to some of my favorite points:

Comments

Not to be anti-libertarian or anything, but the Plain Dealer is just as guilty of witholding information from a criminal investigation whether they report the story or not.
Posted by: Carl at July 9, 2005 11:12 AM

IRRC the Judge in the Plame case made a point of stressing that journalists would have had a much better case for claiming privilege if the leak had been an instance of whistle-blowing.
Posted by: Glen at July 9, 2005 11:34 AM

Finally! Illegal leaks are being judged as such. There is much information that is either classified for national security reasons or confidential. What if someone leaked the recipe for Coke to the NYT? They could print it with impunity and legally refuse to disclose the source?
Posted by: KBK at July 9, 2005 11:36 AM

Boo friggin hoo. Gee, it’s too bad the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s desire for self-aggrandizement is exceeded only by its cowardice. IF you are in the right, then have the courage to act on it, and that goes double for your leaking informant. Otherwise, you are playing a dirty game with one set of rules for yourself and another for everyone you believe you have the duty to investigate.

Grow a set of [testosterone-producing glands], and ethics.
Posted by: charles austin at July 9, 2005 11:45 AM

The Plain Dealer is just lazy. If they have information leading to a story they can do some investigative reporting to establish the basis of the story without revealing their source. They’ve been given a good lead. I think this whole story is fallacious.
Posted by: Gordon at July 9, 2005 12:18 PM

Is Doug Clifton some sort of fool? The crime isn’t reporting, the crime isn’t receiving docs. The crime is leaking them. He’s just told the whole world he’s protecting two criminals (whatever you may think about whether they should be classified as such).

He’s just stuck a “Sue me” sign on himself for any ambitious young prosecutor.

Sheesh.
Posted by: Tim Worstall at July 9, 2005 12:33 PM

The update on campaign contributions has nothing to do with the main post on source protection. I hope those who naively supported McCain-Feingold are coming around. Concerning the separate subject of criminal investigations, there is little we as voters can’t do about it. The legislatures decide what is a crime. Reasonable people will agree that we want our government to protect certain information and punish those who leak it. If the government goes overboard—as is in its nature—we can fix the government.

The big chill? Piffle. Don’t lose your cool.
Posted by: Pavel at July 9, 2005 12:35 PM

Maybe the Plain Dealer needs to hire some new lawyers. It took me all of five minutes to find Ohio Revised Code 2739.12 which states: sec. 2739.12. Newspaper reporters not required to reveal source of information.

No person engaged in the work of, or connected with, or employed by any newspaper or any press association for the purpose of gathering, procuring, compiling, editing, disseminating, or publishing news shall be required to disclose the source of any information procured or obtained by such person in the course of his employment, in any legal proceeding, trial, or investigation before any court, grand jury, petit jury, or any officer thereof, before the presiding officer of any tribunal, or his agent, or before any commission, department, division, or bureau of this state, or before any county or municipal body, officer or committee thereof.

Shorthand, it’s a press shield law. So in the immortal words of Coach Mike Ditka, Plain Dealer who are you [carping about]?

Posted by: Ross at July 9, 2005 12:41 PM

Ross, the Ohio law would not help if a federal prosecutor got into the act.
Posted by: Voiceguy at July 9, 2005 12:50 PM

“It took me all of five minutes to find Ohio Revised Code 2739.12 which states: sec. 2739.12.”

Have you read an annotated version of the ORC, one giving case citations construing that statute and those regarding other privileges? Read any of those cases?

Virtually no privilege, in any jurisdiction, is absolute. While I do not defend the Plain Dealer’s decision, I strongly suspect its attorneys’ advice is correct.
Posted by: Mona at July 9, 2005 02:10 PM

If the story is that great that “people would be well served to know it”, but you are afraid that unfriendly US laws are going to ruin your day, one could do what Canadian “sources” did to break open the corruption investigations in the Great White North…
Posted by: Eric Anondson at July 9, 2005 02:18 PM

If something is categorized as a “leak” and deals with national security issues (which it does when it comes to identities of CIA agents), then you have the moral and civic duty to NOT report this to the public. Because the public, in today’s world, is not only friendlies but enemies.
Posted by: Dan Sherman at July 9, 2005 02:36 PM

pardon me, but this is just bull[oney]. “Illegally leaked documents?” Under what law? The Plain Dealer is getting National Security docs leaked? Really? Explain to me again just why I should believe such an incredibly self-serving statement? They’re worried because the people breaking the law by leaking may be in trouble? Who woulda thunk?

I presume their lawyers have also pointed out that the PD is in trouble just for having the docs?

I have an idea, why don’t we do away with courts and let newspaper editors decide what is right or wrong?

It’s astonishing. (Actually, one thing that’s astonishing is the quality of debate in the comments on this blog. Okay, not astonishing, but impressive.) First Amendment absolutists — on this issue, perhaps we should call them the First Amendment Expansionists — will inevitably now write the teef-gnashing, hand-wringing editorials that go, “The public doesn’t even support its right to be informed any more! It’s the end of the commonwealth!” But the real story is, “The public doesn’t cede any special privilege under the law to a self-appointed Fifth Estate that has badly abused its status, especially in an era when newspapers have not much in particular over everybody else in the world who can publish to the world basically for free.” The institutional press has drawn down all its Watergate capital, or perhaps the IOU’s of earlier times (and not such earlier times) have finally come due. It’s the end of the world as we know it, yes, but we don’t feel all that awful.

That is the story, Glenn! Considering your own views about the questionable validity of the journalists’ privileges, I think you’d agree with me (in fact, maybe you already do).

UPDATE: Some perspective from Joe Gandelman.

UPDATE: Via Instapundit again, here’s another reason why the “press” isn’t entitled to any more “privilege” than you or I.

UPDATE: More of the same, very well done.

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Author:Ron Coleman

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