Daniel Schorr and the Depends Media: Once More Into the (Judith Miller) Breech

Now, I have no larger beef with NPR's cranky old git in residence, Daniel Schorr. But this is just sloppy. From the Christian Science Monitor:

Wearing a jumpsuit and working in the prison laundry, the most famous woman prisoner since Martha Stewart sticks to her principles and waits to see what comes next....

All along, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and district court Judge Thomas Hogan have indicated a willingness to get very, very tough with a woman who asserts a principle they do not recognize.

Okay, first off. That's two times the world principle was used in connection with war mouthpiece Judith Miller, and that's two times too many. We're talking about the woman who offered a direct and steady pipeline to the front page of the New York Times for the hallucinatory lies of Ahmed Chalabi and some joker called "Curveball" about the existence of WMDs (...there's this really big truck, see? And...and they make all the nuclear weapons on it...and, and nobody can find it, see? 'Cos they, like, drive it around...)

I mean, who bought this crap? As TBogg says, I guess the very same people who treated a document entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike In US" like it was a four month-old copy of People magazine.

We'll just set our delicate sensibilities aside for the moment and focus on the larger insults of this particular statement, i.e., that Special Counsel Patrick Fitgerald and Judge Thomas Hogan do not "recognize" whatever "principle" Judith Miller is holding up. Which might actually be true, because as far as I can tell the only "princple" guiding Miller at this point is slavish devotion to saving her own hyde and protecting the guys who put the "con" in NeoCon at all costs.

But I assume the "principle" Schorr is referring to is journalistic privilege. And to paint Judith Miller as some pure, willowy First Amendment martyr being broken on the wheel of a rigid justice department with no regard for civil rights can only be seriously entertained by those who are snapping bongloads with Curveball.

Let me introduce you to my friend Mr. Google, Daniel. It's the craziest thing, all the kids are using it. And now that the threat from terrorism is no more and the Abu Gonzalez has diverted national security resources to the war on porn in his bid to impress the fundies and get on the Supreme Court rid the world of the bukaki scourge, you'll find that it also has an interesting secondary use as a tool for fact-checking stories. (Who knew?)

When Fitzgerald filed his memorandum objecting to Judy's request for home confinement with a delicate yet fetching ankle bracelet and a crack masseuse, he cited noted University of Chicago constitutional scholar Professor Geoffrey Stone, former member of the Board of Directors of the ACLU, who advocates for a federal reporter's shield law:

In the Plame case, we have a relatively unusual circumstance where the source is essentially using the press in an effort to commit a federal crime...no version of a reporter-source privilege in my view or my judgment would cover the particulars of this situation.

In other words: Even the ACLU thinks those First Amendment claims are bunk. What Fitzgerald asserts, rather, is "the unremarkable proposition that the law must be obeyed by all."

Further, Daniel, it wasn't just one judge who decided to send Judy to the slam. It was the decision of a three judge panel, and upheld without dissent by seven judges on the full federal appeals court in Washington. Since both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby have allegedly claimed that a reporter initally told them about Valerie Plame's identity, Fitzgerald is no doubt looking to find out what Judith Miller may have told them. What part of "journalistic privilege" allows reporters to refuse to answer questions about what they told other people? Please illuminate us, because enquiring minds want to know.

And it is still unclear whether Judith Miller was on assignment for the Times at all when she was floating the Plame gossip, since Editor-In-Chief Bill Keller has steadfastly refused to confirm it. What aspect of the First Amendment would cover free-lance backstabbing on behalf of once and future sources?

Now, I don't imagine this particular story made its way into the world as a deliberate piece of misinformation -- rather, it is a shining example of what blogger Roger Ailes aptly refers to as the Depends Media, and a phenomenon that Arianna described in Editor and Publisher recently:

The Judy-as-First Amendment-hero angle is the easy first response to the story. It's the conventional wisdom -- and the mainstream media like nothing better than going with the flow of the 'CW.' It's also the path of least resistance. ... Just hit the hot key on your computer and out pops the jailed-journalist-as-martyr story. It's much harder to swim against the current, to rethink, to reexamine, to reopen closed doors. And you risk stepping on toes -- maybe even the toes of people you socialize with.

There is a lot at stake here, way too much to indulge in boilerplate cut-and-paste journalism. In Judge David S. Tatel's concurrence (PDF) with the decision Judge Hogan wrote to outfit Judy in that snappy prison jumpsuit, there were eight pages redacted -- which usually doesn't imply, say, Brazlian plastic surgery secrets of the stars, but rather matters of national security.

And at this point in the game, Daniel, a guy who worked with Cronkite and Murrow ought to be thinking legacy, and not simply of holding up his assigned martini glass on the cocktail circuit of the beltway bores.