August 2, 2006

"Learning of imminent law enforcement... and informing targets of them is not an activity essential, or even common, to journalism."

So wrote Second Circuit Judge Ralph Winter, rejecting claims of privilege and granting federal prosecutors access to the phone records of two NYT reporters.
The case arose from a Chicago grand jury’s investigation into who told the two reporters, Judith Miller and Philip Shenon, about actions the government was planning to take against two Islamic charities, Holy Land Foundation in Texas and Global Relief Foundation in Illinois. Though the government contended that calls from the reporters tipped off the charities to impending raids and asset seizures, the investigation appears to be focused on identifying the reporters’ sources. No testimony has been sought from the reporters, and there has been no indication that their actions are a subject of the investigation.
The NYT argued that the reporters “were conducting their journalistic duties by getting reaction to an ongoing story.” It would seem that this could always be said in the case where a reporter's inquiry tips off a target of law enforcement.

9 comments:

JSF said...

It always comes back to how much power the First Amendment people have vs. the power of the State. The New York Times believes it has more power then even the State. My question to the Times is, you release all this information and editorialize what cannot be done, then how can the administration stop an attack within our borders? Does Frank Rich employ some troops that we do not know of?

Pogo said...

Forget Fitzmas, I want to see some NYTimes reporters do the frogmarch for treason.

When did the fourth estate decide they needed to act as a fifth column to maintain their objectivity?

Richard Dolan said...

There are interesting parallels between the cases where journalists are forced to give up their sources, notes, outtakes and the like; and the campaign finance cases. In both situations, the constitutional balance under the First Amendment (at least as currently struck by the SCOTUS) sharply limits the intances where any prior restraint on speech may be ordered. The Court has even accepted the notion that money (in the form of political contributions) is a form of indirect speech, and thus cannot be so tightly regulated as to preclude effective political speech. By the same token, however, the beneficiaries of that constitutional protection can be subjected to invasive disclosure requirements (reporters, as to sources, etc., pursuant to grand jury subpoena and sometimes an ordinary civil subpoena; politicians, as to supporters and sources of funding). In both contexts, the Court has rejected the argument that the constitutionally protected nature of the core activity of journalists and politicians precludes the Gov't from burdening those activities with disclosure obligations and, in the case of politicians, contribution limitation restrictions.

Most editorialists are big fans of campaign finance restrictions, but are much less enamoured of the disclosure obligations of journalists. Funny how that worked out. But there's never been a lot of introspection on editorial pages.

J said...

"When did the fourth estate decide they needed to act as a fifth column to maintain their objectivity?"

My greater fear is, when will the public start to view journalists as actively supporting the enemy and thus legitimate targets in war.

PatCA said...

I love the line...quite understated and witty. So now Judy Miller joins the ranks of disgraced reporters. Have fun in media Siberia.

Can you imagine the outrage in the newsroom? You mean...we're not all there is between the BushHitler and freedom?!!

Daryl Herbert said...

Hate-America hate-Israel left-wing journalists didn't want to have to report that an Islamic charity was shut down because the Muslims were a bunch of terrorists. So they sabotaged the investigation. It's that simple.

We're waging the war on (Islamist) terror in many ways: including militarily, homeland security, and in the media. There is a propaganda/information war going on. These depicable traitors to America did not want to give John Ashcroft a propaganda win against a Muslim charity, so they helped the terrorists cover their tracks. The shredding party not only probably saved people from prosecution, it blunted the news coverage of what the charity had been doing. A potentially powerful news story in America's favor was fizzled by journalists who wanted to suppress it.

Only an extremely naive person thinks journalists are all out to "report" the news rather than to shape it towards some end.

ChrisO said...

daryl

Although the media makes a convenient bogeyman for people who don't want to give issues a lot of thought, your comments indicate a real lack of knowledge of Judith Miller's history and agenda.

dick said...

What's to give a lot of thought. A group is collecting money for the people who have attacked your major cities and is attacking your best middle eastern ally and the reporter calls the group up and tells them the FBI is coming to check their records out. What could be a more clear-cut case of misbegotten actions by the reporter. Whatever she did before has nothing to do with what she just did. It is like saying that the kid who killed his mother was nice to the neighborhood children so we should ignore what he did.

ChrisO said...

Dick

I was responding to daryl's post that described the Times reporters as "Hate-America hate-Israel left-wing journalists." So whatever she did before is exactly relevant. His point wasn't that her actions were "misbegotten," it was that her actions were a result of a larger agenda. And I repeat, Judith Miller, a long time lapdog for the Bush administration (although I suspect anyone in power would have earned her cooperation) is anything but a "Hate-America hate-Israel left-wing journalist."