The mainstream media that has taken to pillorying the departing Karl Rove essentially for playing its own game now decries the natural evolution from its own outrage. A federal judge has ruled that journalists must reveal sources for an article that smeared a government bioterrorism expert and falsely reported him to be the prime suspect in the anthrax attacks — and this courtroom should provide familiar surroundings (via Michelle Malkin):
Five reporters must reveal their government sources for stories they wrote about Steven J. Hatfill and investigators’ suspicions that the former Army scientist was behind the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001, a federal judge ruled yesterday.
The decision from U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton is yet another blow to the news industry as it seeks to shield anonymous sources who provide critical information — especially on the secret inner workings of government. …
In lengthy depositions in the case, reporters have identified 100 instances when Justice or FBI sources provided them with information about the investigation of Hatfill and the techniques used to probe his possible role in anthrax-laced mailings. But the reporters have refused to name the individuals.
The decision means that five journalists — Allan Lengel of the Washington Post; Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, both of Newsweek; Toni Locy, formerly of USA Today; and James Stewart of CBS News — are under instruction from the court to answer specific questions about who provided them with information about the investigation’s focus on Hatfill.
Does the name of the judge sound familiar to CQ readers? It should. He’s the same judge who presided over the trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice — in a case based on a leak by government officials. Interestingly enough, the Washington Post report never notes the connection — and for good reason.
When Robert Novak published Valerie Plame’s identity, the media went into moral outrage mode. They screamed about political leaks coming from government officials as if they had never heard of such a thing. The New York Times took the lead in demanding a federal investigation into the matter, and coldly cut their own reporter loose after she refused to name her source for months. Time Magazine overruled their reporter and turned over the requested materials to the independent prosecutor, and national media stars like Chris Matthews ranted about the despicable nature of the leaks — until everyone discovered that the initial leak didn’t come from the White House, but from the State Department’s hostile senior staffer, Richard Armitage.
Now, suddenly, the tables have turned. The media has once again offered the “chill winds” defense to an investigation of national-security leaks. Lucy Dalglish warns of “horrifying” repercussions to free speech if reporters have to reveal their leaks or if leakers get punished for speaking to the press. Reggie Walton, once the hero of the media for throwing the book at Scooter Libby, now has become their worst nightmare for essentially applying the law as strictly against their leakers as he did with Libby.
It’s a bit of poetic justice, to be sure. The media called down the thunder on leaks and leakers. They perhaps should have considered the wisdom of Proverbs 11:29 — “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” (some links via Memeorandum)