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Full-Court Press on the Free Press

03.20.2006 10:02 | DISPATCHES

In her April Vanity Fair article, "Lies and Consequences," Marie Brenner chronicles the consequences of the "Sixteen Words That Changed the World" -- President Bush's claim in the 2003 State of the Union speech that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium from Niger. By burning away the fog shrouding the question of when and if reporters should reveal their sources, Ms. Brenner allowed this reader draw his own conclusions about the future of freedom of the press.

When it turned out that Judith Miller's source was Lewis Libby and he was using her, however willingly, to promote non-existent weapons of mass destruction, progressives smelled blood in the water. Suddenly the principle of source confidentiality took a back seat to the prospect of taking a chunk out of Vice President Cheney.

You couldn't have written a better script for those who seek to strip legal protection from those opposed to the executive branch. Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who would have been demonized by progressives if he'd targeted them, instead became Saint Patrick (as Justin Raimondo calls him).

I'm not suggesting the administration was smart enough to toss Miller and Libby overboard in order to open the door to the appropriation of yet another freedom. Or that a process that culminates in Cheney's indictment is to their benefit.

But it's ironic that the prosecution of administration-friendly figures entailed robbing sources of their protection, thus advancing the executive branch's campaign to hoard all the secrecy for itself. The hard right can take solace in the knowledge that the indictment of Libby and even, should it come to pass, Cheney, ultimately works in its favor.


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