Thursday, July 21, 2005

Sit right down, Don, and plug your nose . . .

Don Shelby has a bit of sanctimonious twaddle on the opinion page of the July 21st StarTribune. Don seems to think that a journalist's privilege is absolute. We all like to think our pedestal is a little higher than anyone else's, and journalists are no different. But he's wrong, and there are good reasons why no privilege against testifying is absolute, be it for lawyers, doctors, clergy, or whomever.

After describing the plight of Judy "The Queen of all Iraq" Miller, Shelby goes on to describe two instances in which he, Don the Chaste, was on the hot seat:
Once, my boss learned that I was supposed to testify to a grand jury. It was a wide-ranging inquiry and I possessed certain information readily available elsewhere. But, because I'd reported a related story, the prosecutor thought it a handy shortcut to just make me a witness and tell my story again -- this time with all my sources named. I told my boss. He wrote me a note, which I still have. It said, "Go to airport. Get on plane. Go someplace. Call me." I stayed gone, incommunicado, for two weeks.

Sigh, Shelby doesn't say whether he was actually subpoenaed or how he knew that the prosecutor wanted to make a handy shortcut out of him. Spotty suspects this story has gotten better in Shelby's telling of it over the years. Next,
It happened again, in Minnesota. It was 20 years ago. A police officer told me a search warrant would be served at the home of a child pornographer. I showed up with a camera. Later, at the trial, both sides wanted to know who told me about the search warrant. I was ordered to answer. I respectfully refused, and was held in contempt by the Hennepin County judge presiding. I knew I couldn't tell. The defense wanted to prove a malicious prosecution. The state wanted to know who leaked the information so that they could fire my source. I served no jail time. The Minnesota Supreme Court found my information immaterial. I would, however, have gone had I been sentenced. Sometimes people are asked to make decisions of conscience; to engage in an act of civil disobedience, and suffer the consequences. That's what Judith Miller is doing.

No, that not what Judy Miller is doing. Miller was an instrument in the perpetration of a crime, a rather serious federal crime that affects national security. But for the fact that the statute on the "outing" of intelligence is so narrowly drawn, Miller might easily be indicted as a co-conspirator or accessory.

Spotty's lawyer friends say that if a lawyer helps a client in the perpetration of a crime, communications between the lawyer and client in furtherance of the crime are not privileged. If a doctor assists a client in the perpetration of prescription or controlled substance fraud, the doctor's records are not privileged. Don't believe Spotty? Ass (God, that was Freudian) ask Rush Limbaugh.

Here's another gem:
If the government can require reporters to give up their sources, the reporters become an arm of the police. I don't think anyone, even Judith Miller's critics, would like that. The press acts independently of the government.

Actually here, The Queen of All Iraq has acted as an instrument of the administration, and she wants to be protected from the consequences of that. The defense of Judy Miller in this case is positively Orwellian.

Journalists who come to Miller's defense are chumps. They support a world in where crimes, frauds and defamations are protected merely because they are laundered through the Fourth Estate.

Shelby concludes by writing that he offered to serve time in Miller's stead. Perhaps his stupid grandstanding gesture is the result of reading A Tale of Two Cities recently, but believe Spotty when he says Don, Judy Miller isn't worth it.

No comments: