BOYCOTT NOVAK. Now that New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine's Matthew Cooper have been dragged another step closer to jail, it's time for the media community to rise up as one and call out the Prince of Darkness, syndicated columnist Robert Novak.
It is Novak, as much as anyone, who knows the answer to the question that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is asking: Which "senior administration officials" revealed that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA operative? Novak was the first to reveal Plame's identity. Yet we still have no idea what, if anything, has happened to him.
Was he subpoenaed? Did he cooperate? (If so, why harass Cooper and Miller?) Has Novak not been subpoenaed? If not, why not? Might he be the subject of a separate criminal investigation? (On one of the very few occasions that he's addressed the subject, he's said that he isn't.) Or is he getting off easy because he's a Republican hatchet man?
I don't know what ought to be done. In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled in Branzburg v. Hayes that journalists do not have a legal right to protect confidential sources when called by a grand jury to testify. A majority of the justices seemed to think there ought to be some sort of balancing test. But the bottom line was that if a journalist's source was crucial to a criminal investigation, and prosecutors couldn't get that information anywhere else, then the journalist would have to give up her source or go to jail.
As a public gesture of solidarity with Cooper and Miller, newspapers ought to boycott Novak's column until he explains what his role has been. CNN ought to keep him off the air. I'm not saying that Novak should give up his sources. I'm saying that we deserve a credible explanation from him as to what his interactions with the special prosecutor have been, and why two of his colleagues face jail (Miller never even wrote about the Plame matter) while he goes about his glowering, unmerry way.
There are a zillion links out there today. The New York Times covers the story here; the Washington Post here. I wrote about the government's increasing aggressiveness in going after reporters' confidential sources here.
ALTERMAN V. YOUNG. Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young responds to Eric Alterman at Reason.com. What's missing from this is any acknowledgment that she went 95 percent of the way toward calling Alterman a "self-hating" Jew. Column-writing is rough, and it's supposed to be, but there are some expressions that are simply out of bounds - and that was one of them. Absent that, I wouldn't be all that interested in this spat - nor, I suspect, would Alterman himself.
ROLE REFUSAL. Joe Hagan reports in the New York Observer that former 60 Minutes Wednesday executive producer Josh Howard refuses to take the blame for whatever he contributed to the Rathergate mess over those phony National Guard documents. (I say "former," but that's unclear, given that Howard has refused to resign.) Lawyers and threats of lawsuits are said to be in the air.
As Hagan observes, it's "hard to see how Mr. Howard would escape any culpability. Few dispute that Mr. Howard could have stopped the report from airing had he executed his full powers." Still, the prospect of Howard's going after higher-ups - including CBS president Leslie Moonves - is bound to keep this story churning. And ensure that CBS News remains in complete turmoil for some time to come.