Chronicle Editor Displays Stupidity

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On "Reliable Sources" today, Phil Bronstein, the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, was discussing a recent subpoena directed at two of his reporters, who wrote a book based largely on illegally leaked grand jury transcripts.

Obviously, the point of the subpoena is to find out how illegally leaked those transcripts, because if you allow people involved with grand juries to get away with that sort of thing, then grand juries lose a significant amount of their effectiveness: part of the point is that you can more freely speak in a grand jury because it is a secret.

So, therefore, the government wants to vigorously attack this illegal act, to protect the integrity of the process.

However, this obvious point and goal of the subpoenas was not even mentioned, once, in the seven-minute interview. Instead, Bronstein went off about total nonsense.

He said this is not about national security, only steroids: but the courts don't care what the case is about when you commit perjury or contempt or some other offense against the court, because when you harm the integrity of the court in one case, it affects all other cases, including, perhaps, those having to do with national security.

He complained that his reporters could get more jail time than the defendants in the original case, but again, that completely misses the point.

He accused the government of being out to get the media, even though he admits the government is following the law. He even has the gall to say maybe the Ninth Circuit will violate the law and exonerate his reporters.

He said that grand jury secrecy is not absolute, which, while true, has nothing to do with this case, because the information given to his reporters was, in one way or another, provided illegally.

Perhaps worst of all, he attacks the government for its "strategic leaking," saying if they can leak, what makes this leak wrong? He does not consider the fact that "strategic leaking" of the kind he was referring to is not, in any way, illegal, and the leaks to his reporters were.

This case is simple. The reporters did nothing wrong, but if they do not give the information the court is requiring of them, they will be breaking the law -- a law necessary to the entire judicial process -- and they should go to jail for it. Anything less means that the grand jury process as we know it, which has served us so well for a long time, will cease to exist.

This case has nothing to do with the press specifically, nothing to do with Barry Bonds, nothing to do with anything except prosecution of crimes that are necessary to prosecute, and refusal to create special privileges and loopholes for journalists that will render completely ineffective any efforts to enforce those laws.

And the same thing goes for the journalists held in contempt over the Valerie Plame investigation.

And, as usual, the press is entirely shirking its responsibility by not giving us any opposing view to theirs: journalists need special rights and privileges. That's probably the part that makes me most angry about this whole thing, is that journalists are supposed to be the government watchdogs, but when it comes to protecting their own interests in regard to the government, they completely ignore the opposing view, and pretend it doesn't exist. I've seen only one journalist come out against a federal shield law, and he was on -- no surprise here -- the NewsHour (by far, the most responsible TV news program in the U.S.).

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on May 14, 2006 12:07 PM.

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