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We Don't Need No Stinkin' First Amendment

Reported by Nancy - July 7, 2005 -

Last night (7/6) on Special Report, the "All-Stars" (regulars Fred Barnes, Jeff Birnbaun & Bill Sammon) barely exerted themselves to minimize collateral damage from the ongoing investigation into who leaked Valerie Plame's identity to Bob Novak. Why? Because no crime has been committed. Barnes & Birnbaum showed their utter disdain for the profession of journalism

Hume read a teaser for the segment, spinning the topic as: What were Matt Cooper & Judith Miller trying to protect? What is Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald investigating? After an ad break, Hume showed a clip of Cooper's statement from earlier the same day, then opened the discussion to the panel.

Barnes (as usual) jumped right in, asking why, if Fitzgerald knows the sources "does he have to bring them [Cooper & Miller] before the grand jury?" Of course Barnes was ready to answer his own question, repeating the mantra that Fox has been using since at least last week: Fitzgerald has decided (according to mindreader Barnes) that "there was no crime committed." Barnes pointed out that "knowingly" outing an agent "to harm national security" is a "very high standard" so he feels Fitzgerald is "going after someone else."

Birnbaum said there doesn't seem to be much purpose now to the investigation & called it a "disaster on all fronts." He predicted that Cooper "will be tarred as the reporter who did not go to jail" & that TIME magazine will be "outcast in academic journalistic circles for .... caving in." He seemed bewildered over why Miller went to jail & trotted out the usual blame-the-prosecutor excuse, saying that Fitzgerald "has gone too far."

Sammon was angrier about this than either Barnes or Birnbaum. He said the "TIME suits" will be tarred & called the whole episode a "terrible, terrible precedent" for the issue of confidentiality, claiming that sources at the Washington Times (where he works) are "already starting to dry up" due to the "chilling effect." He called it a "travesty."

Barnes jumped on that word, chiming in with "the whole case is travesty & disaster" & airily dismissing Sammon's concerns (the "chilling effect will last about a day"). Barnes also stated that "Matt Cooper handled it honorably from his point of view." Hume sided with Barnes. He noted that 30 years ago he had been involved in a libel suit & had written a piece for the NYTimes magazine about the "chillling effect" but his doom & gloom predictions then never came true.

Sammon stayed on the topic that he was angry about, repeating that journalists should "protect your source," "go to jail," & "pay the price."

Barnes again dismissed Sammon's concerns, saying that "not many sources are gonna ask for a guarantee" of confidentiality from corporate owners of media.

Hume finally got around to Karl Rove, asking "will he end up at the center?" Barnes immediately said the chances of that are "almost zero." The discussion veered back to waivers of confidentiality & whether they are coerced. Barnes smugly asserted that a waiver "should release a reporter" but Sammon insisted "no, those are coerced."

Comments: Sammon was the only one of these four who seemed to have even the vaguest concept that there might be such a thing as journalistic ethics.

Readers - so you can argue from facts, here's as good a summary of the investigation as I've seen:

Fitzgerald has been investigating for 18 months whether senior Bush administration officials broke the law by knowingly leaking the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame to reporters as retaliation for an opinion piece written by her husband. Plame's name first appeared in a syndicated column by Robert Novak in July 2003, eight days after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, accused the administration of twisting intelligence to justify war with Iraq.

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (how Special Report & the "All Stars" are handling this issue). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.