October 31, 2005

Ted Olson on Libby and Fitzgerald

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:18 pm

Don Luskin is right–Olson says all that needs to be said (WSJ link may be free this week, but ordinarily requires subscription):

Must officials now fear that they may be prosecuted if they do not accurately recall conversations years later? And that the journalists they talk to will be witnesses for the prosecution? Should journalists caution sources that if their memories of fleeting conversations are less than fully consistent, those memories will be fodder for prosecutors years later?

Mr. Fitzgerald justified his subpoenas on the ground that the journalists were “eyewitnesses to the crime.” But he was unable to establish, and he certainly hasn’t charged, that there was a crime in the first place. If special prosecutors can be empowered to investigate allegations of conduct that isn’t first established to be criminal, and to interrogate witnesses — especially reporters — about memories of distant conversations with sources regarding conduct that isn’t plainly criminal, there is no politically motivated allegation that can’t be turned into a criminal cover-up. So, regardless of how one might feel about the administration or the war in Iraq, the circumstances of this prosecution, and the involvement of reporters such as Tim Russert as prosecution witnesses, ought to give us occasion to pause and consider the implications of Mr. Fitzgerald’s redefinition of “Meet the Press.”

If, as it appears, Fitzgerald is indeed planning to rely on open-court testimony of reporters to convict Mr. Libby, I have to wonder if there won’t be a few cases of cold feet. There should be: If the evidence against Mr. Libby comes from reporters who are compelled to testify from conflicting detailed notes of conversations with Mr. Libby that were at the time supposed to be confidential, what will that do to future reporters’ ability to have any meaningful conversations with government officials?

Outside the Beltway Jammer.


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