Monday, October 29, 2007

Blackwater vs. New York Times Reporter

What happens when someone in a case has critical information to ascertain if any crimes have been committed? How does a modern democracy behave? Consider two examples:

1) A reporter for a highly regarded newspaper gets confidential information from a government insider which is later published by a different reporter. What should happen to her?

2) Guards working for a private security firm kill 17 Iraqi citizens while escorting an embassy convoy. What should happen to them?

Note the differences in our shining examples. I'm sure the free world will. For accepting a phone call from a member of the White House, NYT reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail for not testifying.

The Guardian reported on the Iraqi shooting investigation. Three senior law enforcement officials said all the Blackwater bodyguards involved - both in the vehicle convoy and in at least two helicopters above - were given the legal protections as investigators from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security sought to find out what happened. `Once you give immunity, you can't take it away,'' said a senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

Naomi Wolfe cites 10 things a government does to close a society. Intimidating the media, controlling stories, and impeding the free flow of information is clearly on Bush's priority list. Another strategy is to create a para-military force above the rule of law. Bingo!

Why does the government toss a reporter in jail for not testifying while potential thugs can seemingly say "not talking" in return for immunity? There's a clear double standard and Ms. Wolfe's book puts it in context.