September 28, 2004

The New York Times > Washington > Reporters Put Under Scrutiny in C.I.A. Leak

"A reporter for The Times, M. A. Farber, spent 40 days in jail in 1978 rather than name a source. 'You ought not go back to a source from whom you have obtained confidential information and ask to be absolved of your obligation,' Mr. Farber said. 'The reporter always has the option of keeping his mouth shut. If he isn't willing to accept that responsibility, he oughtn't be in the game in the first place.'"

"Robin Bierstedt, a deputy general counsel at Time Inc., disputed that reasoning. "Confidential source protection is based on the reporter's protection of the source," Ms. Bierstedt said. "If the source no longer wants that protection, and informs the reporter of that fact, the reporter should be free to testify, if he or she chooses.""

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The basic views about whether a reporter should be forced to reveal his/her confidential sources are revealed in the quotes above. This is a tough nut. The credibility of the press is at stake in a time when the media continue to lose support in the view of a large portion of America, according to polls.

My take is that when national security is at stake, revealing secrets is a crime. However, it's wrong to use national security as a cover for political acts. Intertwining security and politics is bad business. The media has a lot to lose in this debate.
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