There’s an interesting turn of phrase in a Pravda news item penned by the irrepressible Howie Kurtz :
“A federal appeals court has refused to block an order requiring four journalists to testify about their confidential sources in reporting on former nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee.
The appeal by news organizations failed on a 4 to 4 vote in which two of the dissenters warned that the ruling would damage First Amendment rights and all but destroy the principle that has generally protected reporters from being compelled to testify in such cases.
That’s the good news. What’s interesting about it comes a beat or so later.
Lee’s interest in seeking compensation in a civil suit “pales in comparison to the public’s interest in avoiding the chilling of disclosures about what the government then believed to be nuclear espionage. . . . It’s hard to imagine how his interest could outweigh the public’s interest in protecting journalists’ ability to report without reservation on sensitive issues of national security,” appellate court Judge David S. Tatel wrote in dissent.
Now isn’t that special. We Ho Lee, a nuclear scientist imprisoned , in shackles, in solittary confinement, without access to a lawyer for six months has nothing to complain about. The “real victims” are
The reporters in the case are James Risen of the New York Times, Robert Drogin of the Los Angeles Times, H. Josef Hebert of the Associated Press and Pierre Thomas, formerly of CNN and now at ABC
and unindicted co-“victim” Jeff Gerth.
The journalists reported in 1999 that Lee, who then worked at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, was a suspect in the theft of nuclear secrets for China.
And as we’ve learned via dribs and drabs of information that have risen to the surface of this fetid fourth estate swamp over the years, not only was Wen Ho lee entirely innocent, one of the “sources” for the claim agianst him was a character named Neutra Trulock — a Free Republic adept with government ties. But he’s not the most curious of the case’s many characters. That would be Katrina Leung —
“a San Marino socialite and Republican fundraiser who was arrested in 2003 along with her lover, former FBI agent James J. Smith. The case was a high-profile embarrassment for the FBI, which had paid Leung for years to provide intelligence on the Chinese government.”
Was the Wen Ho Lee case manufactured in order to draw attention away from the woman who may have been the real spy? We may never know because —
In a sharply worded opinion, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper said prosecutors committed misconduct by making a plea agreement with Smith in which he was barred from sharing any more information with Leung or her lawyers.
Debra W. Yang, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said late Thursday that the prosecutors in the case had behaved ethically and had denied prohibiting Smith from talking to Leung’s attorneys.
She said her office would consider appealing the ruling. Justice Department officials said an appeal is likely, because a different federal judge had signed off on Smith’s plea agreement.
But Leung’s attorneys Janet I. Levine and John D. Vandevelde, in a statement, expressed optimism that “Katrina Leung’s nightmare is over.”
The lawyers said that prosecutors “engaged in misconduct,” gagging Smith and then trying to cover it up: “You can’t do that in America.”
Is that a fact? Well there’s a lot you can do in America when it comes to manipulating the press and spreading disinformation. Happily the days of disinformation’s primarytechnique, “unnamed sourcing,” may be coming to a long-overdue end — thanks to Patrick Fitzgerald. Of course any number of highly placed parties are upset at this prospect, as an opinion in the Wen Ho Lee matter shows–
A separate dissent, by Judge Merrick B. Garland, said the majority applied too narrow a test in evaluating the journalists’ claims, and that “if the reporter’s privilege is limited to those requirements, it is effectively no privilege at all.”
And that’s precisely how it should be with the fourth estate– no privilege at all!