Robert Novak Must Face His Day in Court

“Big” journalism has its problems, from decreasing newspaper circulation and credibility issues to competition from citizen reporters. But the last thing news organizations should have to deal with is keeping its reporters out of jail for the offense of doing their jobs.

I’ve followed the “Plame Affair” off and on since it began two years ago, when pseudo-journalist Robert Novak outed CIA agent Valerie Plame in a newspaper column. I was confused when Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine were held in contempt for not disclosing their sources to a grand jury – the same sources who first leaked the news to Novak.

Last week, three federal appeals court judges said Miller and Cooper could be jailed up to 18 months for their “crimes.” And Novak? If he testified he isn’t saying, if he did anything wrong he isn’t being punished.

In the meantime, Miller of the New York Times is looking at moving into a 10 x 10 steel condo, and she didn’t even publish a story (she talked to sources and did some reporting but never wrote a word). Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald also wants her phone records – what’s next, her library card? Oh wait, sorry, that is what’s next.

This case is about press freedom, sure, but it is also about due process. No one should be above the law, especially someone as low as Novak.

Then again, maybe the government is just targeting journalists, which is why they are leaving Novak alone. He’s as much a journalist as Bill O’Reilly or Geraldo Rivera, who made headlines by revealing U.S. troop movements during the drive to Baghdad.

I mean this with all due respect: What is wrong with these people?

Geraldo discloses troop locations and Novak exposes a U.S. spy, thereby putting her life in danger? Will we learn next week that Tucker Carlson is giving the North Koreans our launch codes? Is Pat Buchanan sharing satellite photos with Tehran? At least all O’Reilly did was grope an employee. Then again, Bill Clinton did the same thing and was impeached.

We have enough problems in the world without our own people making it worse. And with the government busy dismantling press freedom, we can’t afford to put the real journalists in jail.

I’d rather the Bush Administration hire 100 “journalists” like Armstrong Williams than send one decent reporter up the river for doing the right thing. Propaganda I can deal with, persecution I cannot.

I’m not saying Robert Novak should go to jail instead of Miller and Cooper – but I do believe Novak should face up to his day in court.

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