Friday, September 30, 2005

Miller Finally Testifies

New York Times reporter Judith Miller was released from jail after agreeing to testify before a Washington grand jury investigating the exposure of a former CIA operative. Miller spent 86 days in prison for refusing to reveal her source of the CIA agent's name, citing First Amendment protection of the anonymity of news sources. (Financial Times: Miller testimony to end grand jury CIA probe).

The much abused First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Nowhere in that article does it give the press the right to withhold the source of their news. In my view, claiming "unnamed sources" only serves to weaken the validity of the news item. It lessens the credibility of the source and the news agency.

The courts were correct in the decision to imprison Miller for contempt. She has every right under the First Amendment to publish an article, but she has no right to withhold the source of that article. (Ironically, Miller never did publish the name of the CIA agent - Robert Novak did, but he's not the one that served time.)

The Grand Jury investigation continued today with Miller's testimony. According to the New York Times, Miller's source was Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis Libby. Prior testimony by Time Magazine's Matthew Cooper allegedly named his source as Karl Rove, however Cooper stated today that he told the Grand Jury that neither Rove nor Libby was his source.

What may ultimately decide this issue is not who said what to whom, but rather the definition of an undercover CIA agent and the status of Valerie Plame (the CIA agent in question) at the time her name was released. The argument has been posed that Plame was not under cover at the time, and therefore the entire investigation is moot. A technicality for sure, but it may be a very important point. Following the indictment of DeLay and the investigation into Frist's stock sales, the GOP can ill afford another indictment of a high level official. An indictment against either Rove or Libby would be devastating going into the 2006 mid-terms.

The grand jury is expected to conclude next week. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, comes out of the investigation. Grand jury proceedings are secret, so we may never know for sure what evidence was presented, but one thing is certain. The results of this investigation may have a tremendous impact on the control of congress following the elections. Stay tuned. This is one to watch.


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