Friday, January 02, 2004

Kinsley on Plame 

Kinsley on Plame. I can't say I agree. Kinsley points out the absurdity of the whole exercise of an investigation focused on a question to which Bob Novak knows the answer. The money quote (as Andrew Sullivan would say):

"The purpose of protecting the identity of leakers is to encourage future leaks. Leaks to journalists, and the fear of leaks, can be an important restraint on misbehavior by powerful institutions and people. This serves the public interest. But there is no public interest in leaks that harm national security, or leaks that violate the law, or leaks intended to harm blameless individuals. There is no reason to want more of these kinds of leaks. So, there is no reason to protect the identity of such bad-faith leakers."

This is the same tired argument anyone makes when they want to abridge speech they find distasteful - much like a mayor banning a Klan rally and saying the Constitution doesn't protect hate. The point is not only that we are not in a position to determine which speech is worthy of protection - the point is that restraints even on harmful speech will discourage future speakers who have something valuable to contribute to the discourse. So it goes with Novak's source - if he doesn't protect him or her, a good source down the road with a good leak may be afraid to go public. Is this really that hard to understand?

(I am not suggesting, btw, that a journalist has Constitutional duty to protect his or her sources - but they do have an important moral obligation to do so, an obligation not only to their source, but to their fellow journalists and to the American public.)

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