Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Jack Shafer ruminates on the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame and ends on this note:

The hidden bad news is that none of them [the six journalists who were called by an anonymous leaker] reported that the Plame information was being leaked by sources who wished to embarrass her and Wilson -- which they could have legitimately done without burning their sources by name. In other words, they all protected the White House from its blunder.
There are plenty of interesting things to say about this affair. Indeed at times like this, I wish people actually read my blog so I could justify spending time on it. For one, the odd parallels with the David Kelly affair over on this side of the ocean are surprising: In both, a mean-spirited leak about an intelligence officer sparked controversy, questions about the role of the media, and an internal investigation, all of which serve as a proxy-scandal for the larger issue of the case for war.

Schafer points out that there are six people -- journalists all of them, most likely in the mainstream national press -- who know the identify of the person who outted Valerie Plame. Now there's an ethical dilemma: You know somebody in the administration broke the law, in a rather slimy sort of way, by trying to leak a story to you. You could reveal the person's identity and make a pretty big name for yourself. As a trustworthy journalist, are you obliged to keep the identity of your "source" confidential? Even if the person's a scumbag? (Didn't Christopher Hitchens expose Sid Blumenthal over something slightly less hairy?) Even if the person's not a source at all, because you never used the story, most likely because you knew it was pure spin? I don't pretend to know the correct answer.


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