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October 04, 2003

ONE MORE THOUGHT: One comment that I made in passing earlier, and that seems more and more relevant as I think about it, is that the White House has a lot to gain by subpoenaing reporters who know about the Plame leaks. Doing that serves several useful purposes. First, once the press clams up and starts going on about protecting sources, it becomes extremely hard for it to claim that the White House is covering things up. "Who's stonewalling now?" can be the response.

Second, the press's complaints will look like special pleading (which they are). "If you leak this you're a traitor, but if we publish it, we're being great Americans," won't wash.

Third, subpoenaing reporters will likely reduce the number of leaks in the future. And that's a good thing, right? We keep hearing that these leaks were disastrous for national security. If that's true, we certainly want people to think twice before leaking in this fashion again, or publishing the results of such leaks.

I've got more on this here, here, here, and here. Or just enter "Plame" in the search window to find the complete list of posts on the subject.

UPDATE: Howard Kurtz observes:

There are at least six people in Washington who know the answer to the city's most politically charged mystery in years. And they're not talking.

That's because they're journalists.

Whether they should maintain their silence -- and whether they might be legally compelled to break it -- lies at the heart of a burgeoning debate about media ethics and the whispered transactions with government officials that shape the daily flow of news and opinion. . . .

Some members of the public, if a torrent of e-mails is any indication, suggest Novak and the other journalists have a duty to come forward. If it is a federal crime for officials to intentionally make public the name of a covert operative, these critics ask, why do reporters who serve as a conduit for such information get a pass?

Why, indeed? Kurtz concludes with this observation:

All this puts journalists in the uncomfortable position of peppering administration officials with questions some of their colleagues, now in the media spotlight, could answer.

"It's a tough question for journalists," said Columbia's Lemann. "I see why not revealing a source is very powerfully in your personal professional interest. But why is it also in the public interest?"

Again: why, indeed?

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've got more on this subject, here, in response to the rather bizarre claim that the above constitutes advice to the White House on how to cover things up.