New York Times journalist Judith Miller was jailed Wednesday for doing her job. Miller, as well as Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, had been under investigation by the federal government for covering the disclosure of an undercover CIA operative by nationally syndicated Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak.
Novak revealed the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative. This action was a clear warning shot to those who would dare to openly criticize the Bush administration’s plans. In this case it was to silence Wilson; yet, Novak remains one of the few journalists who reported on the case but have not been beset upon by the administration, despite committing a major crime by publishing the name of an active CIA operative.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the Plame case is not only intended to scare politicians critical of the White House into submission, it is also intended to do the same to the press.
The source of the information that was leaked to Novak has been narrowed down to someone within the White House, and is now rumored to be Karl Rove, one of the president’s closest advisers, and a man that has been referred to by the president as the “architect” of Bush’s campaigns and his administrations political battle plans.
Miller refused to name sources she had guaranteed anonymity, a technique without which investigative journalism would be rendered largely impossible. Yet she has been jailed after refusing to answer questions by the grand jury investigating the case.
Cooper only narrowly avoided the same fate after he grudgingly answered the commission’s questions; but he only did so after conferring with his sources and ensuring that they were fine with him releasing their names. Cooper had only done research, and had not even published his story.
The most pressing question remains why Novak remains free while Miller and Cooper are pressured into submission or consigned to imprisonment. He is, after all, the one who first published Plame’s name, not Miller or Cooper.
Even the most ardent Bush supporters are beginning to notice the clear double standard stemming from Novak’s support of Bush.
The First Amendment guarantees not only free speech, it is also intended to guarantee freedom of the press.
Now that the U.S. government has made it clear it feels it is acceptable to extort information from those that may dissent — and to do so under the all-too-familiar guise of national security — this freedom is very much under fire.