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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

It's Time to Shutdown the Plame "Investigation"

There is actually important news other than Rathergate today. You may recall that columnist Robert Novak disclosed in 2003 the fact that Valerie Plame, wife of Bush administration Iraq critic Joseph Wilson, was employed by the CIA. Some in the MSM subsequently got into a peculiar high dudgeon of rage against Novak, including especially the editorial page of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which characterized his disclosure as "perilously close to treason."

Novak's alleged treason was the result of his supposed violation of the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it a federal crime to disclose the identity of an active undercover CIA agent. According to those in the MSM demanding an investigation of Novak, somebody in the Bush administration maliciously leaked Plame's employment in retaliation against Wilson for his criticism of administration Iraq policy during congressional testimony and numerous media appearances.

Wilson was a hero to many in the MSM at the time, thanks to his opposition to Bush's policies. Largely in response to demands from prominent quarters of the MSM, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was then tasked to investigate the leak to Novak. Fitzgerald has subsequently gone after journalists with an energy and audacity not seen since John Kennedy sicced his brother on the Mob.

Fitzgerald has gone to such extraordinary lengths trying to nail the leaker that he forced reporters from Newsweek and The New York Times to choose between jail and revealing a confidential source to the Special Prosecutor.

Now we learn from an op-ed in The Washington Post today by the authors of the 1982 law that there is no crime for Fitzgerald to investigate. Here's the key line from Washington, D.C. attorneys Bruce Sanford and Victoria Toensing:

"It's time for a timeout on a misguided and mechanical investigation in which there is serious doubt that a crime was even committed. Federal courts have stated that a reporter should not be subpoenaed when the testimony sought is remote from criminal conduct or when there is no compelling "government interest," i.e., no crime. As two people who drafted and negotiated the scope of the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, we can tell you: The Novak column and the surrounding facts do not support evidence of criminal conduct."

But why simply have a "timeout" if there is no crime? If there is no crime, Fitzgerald's Star Chamber ought to be shut down forthwith. And the Blogosphere ought to be in the forefront of demanding that result.

Why? Because the First Amendment covers the Blogosphere just as it does the MSM and the day is coming sooner than we think when bloggers will need to protect confidential sources, too. We owe it to ourselves, friends, to get in front of this issue now. Stopping the Plame investigation is an excellent place to start doing that.

Think about it - what would you do if a zealous government prosecutor offered you the choice of revealing your source or going to jail indefinitely for contempt?