The subtitle to this whole episode should be Caged Heat: Reporters in Jail
Reporters are more and more being coerced into revealing sources for the stories they file at their respective newspapers and networks. Two reporters at the San Francisco Chronicle broke a story about the steroid scandal at BALCO (Bay Area Lab Coop), a vitamin shop down by San Francisco Airport. Well, in the reporting of what happened a lot of names were stricken from the public record, in the indictment from the Grand Jury. And this is where things go terribly wrong. The Bush Administration has taken the stance that ANY amount of information that leaks out of Grand Jury proceeding meets the ‘exigent’ circumstances as stated in the rules regarding subpeona’s for reporter’s sources on a story. The government is supposed to exhaust all other means of determining the source of the leak before they turn to forcing the reporter to name his/her sources. This according to interviews done with Justice Department employees is completely up to the interpretation of whomever has been appointed to whichever position at Justice. From political appointees to the full-timers they ultimately hire, THOSE are the folks that make the determination of ‘exigent’ circumstances. It should come as no surprise that any other group of individuals still under the title of “Department of Justice” could come to a much different conclusion. One administration determines that 18 subpeonas must be issued, the next administration never submits subpeaonas, and guess who pays the price of those stupid subpeona cases? You and me ladies an gentlemen. The vendettas being carried out against the press are costing you and me hard earned tax dollars.
Now I agree with most of the legal arguments that state Grand Jury testimony is not an indictment. You are not guilty just because you’re called to testify at a Grandy Jury proceeding. And therefore you wouldn’t ever be suspected of being a criminal because the proceedings are SECRET. It’s nobody’s business but you and the court. Under different circumstances, sometimes the Court decides the proceedings no longer are secret. Sometimes and individual decides their testimony is no longer secret. Sometimes information comes out. In the BALCO case, the court record of testimony made it out of the Court’s hands, and that’s whent he crime was committed. I personally come down on the side of following the rules of a Grand Jury proceeding. Best not to infringe on someone’s rights even if it may ‘resonate’ as the reporters of the Chronicle say over and over again. Resonance is by no means a justification for breaking a law. Next time, try to exhaust every means you can to get the same information. Don’t quote the Court Record. At the same time, why is the Justice Department being used as a blunt instrument to generally threaten the Press at large. Makes no sense to me. There’s a lot of blame to go around. Two wrongs (the reporters and the Justice Dept.) will not make this right.