Bob Dole on the Press

In today's NYTimes, Bob Dole, former Republican presidential candidate and Senate Majority Leader, has an op-ed piece on the the jailing of Times reporter Judith Miller. Refusing to reveal her sources in the Valerie Plame Wilson's CIA exposure case, Miller was jailed on contempt charges in July.

As Senator Dole notes, Miller's jailing as part of a Federal investigation--utylizing Federal statutes--would not be allowed in most states.
"Today 49 states and the District of Columbia recognize a ]reporter's privilege,' either by statute or through state judicial decisions, which allows journalists to report information and protect confidential sources without fear of imprisonment."
The Fourth Estate serves a function in a democracy that can be replaced by none. As a watchdog for the American people, the media (which in the twenty-first century must include bloggers) is a final check in the system of checks and balances that has allowed this country to flourish since the ratification of the Constitution in 1788. As often as the press can be a distraction in its biased reporting (cf Dan Rather), they do have a legitimate job to do in this republic.

The more interesting implication of Miller's incarceration (besides the fact that she never wrote a single word on Valerie Plame) is the prosecutorial overreach. The law under which the investigation is proceeding was narrowly conceived to protect covert operatives whose life behind enemy lines in the Cold War were endangered by leaks. Ms. Plame was in no danger sitting at her desk in Langley, VA.

Could this be another example of showboating, this time by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald? High profile cases--from Whitewater to Martha Stewart--have become about the limelight and are a ridiculous waste of taxpayer's money. Judith Miller is only the latest victim.