Will the New York Times get caught in the snare of the WikiLeaks probe?
By Chris Martin/Flickr
By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Attorney General Eric Holder said it again today. There’s an ongoing investigation, he said in answer to a reporter’s question, into the WikiLeaks publishing of confidential State Department documents. He declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.
The follow up question that wasn’t asked (and if it were it might not have been answered) should have been, “is the New York Times a target of that probe?” U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-independent from Connecticut, has already called for an investigation of the Times.
That leads to another question. What would the Times be investigated for exactly?
No one has thus far suggested that the Times was complicit in either the procuring of the State Department cables or their initial publication. What the New York Times, and other news organizations, did was report on what WikiLeaks had published.
So why would a U.S. senator call for an investigation?
It becomes more than a little disquieting whenever officialdom goes after those who report the news. In fact, it’s darn right un-American. It’s not just happenstance that the Founding Fathers placed freedom of the press as part of the First Amendment.
Of course, this is far from the first time that the weight of the government has been brought to bear on the New York Times. The most obvious comparison was the government’s unsuccessful attempt to suppress publication of the Pentagon Papers. More recently, Judith Miller, then a reporter at the New York Times, refused to reveal her source in the CIA leak that outed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent and spent three months in jail in contempt of court.
One can debate and argue the judgment of the Times in covering this story I suppose. And it’s fine for Lieberman and even Holder to use their positions in government as a bully pulpit to chastise those who are reporting daily what WikiLeaks has been posting. But a government investigation? Designed to do what? Intimidate?
It’s enough to make the Founders squirm. And congratulate one another if you believe they are watching – for being so smart to make protection of the press their first order of business as a newly formed Congress.