Thursday, November 17, 2005

Water-Carriers For Abusers of Power

Walter Pincus, a Washington Post reporter who testified in front of Prosecutor Fitzgerald's grand jury in the "Plamegate" case, has been held in contempt of court in a different but similar type of case.

The Post reporter, who is known for his access to good sources in the intelligence community, has refused to identify his source(s) in the Wen Ho Lee case. Mr. Lee, a nuclear physicist for the government at Los Alamos had been suspected of spying for China in the late 1990's. Anonymous government sources engaged in a campaign of leaks of incriminating information against Mr. Lee, who later pleaded guilty to one count of a much lesser charge.

Mr. Lee is suing the government over his treatment at the hands of federal authorities. Four other reporters have already been held in contempt in the Lee case: James Risen of the New York Times, H. Josef Hebert of the Associated Press, Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times and ABC News' Pierre Thomas, then reporting for CNN.

What this case has in common with the CIA leak case is that, in both cases, reporters are standing up for upholding the confidentiality of sources who happen not to be public spirited whistle-blowers, but are instead government officials abusing their power.

Government officials leak sensitive and classified information daily in the policy wars in Washington. Published stories based on such leaks are essential to slowing this country's seemingly inevitable descent into a full-fledged national security state.

Examples like "Plamegate" and Wen Ho Lee seriously threaten valid claims of reporter-source confidentiality. Overlapping reporters and media outlets in these two cases lends credence to those who believe that the weakening of this privilege is a goal of the security fetishists.


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