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Reporter Convicted for Refusing to Give Identity of a Source
November 19, 2004 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Next in the "America slowly slipping toward fascism" saga: Reporter Convicted for Refusing to Give Identity of a Source. Mr. Taricani would be one of only a handful of journalists to go to jail for refusing to identify a source. Mr. Taricani was convicted in connection with a long-running federal investigation called Operation Plunderdome, which resulted in the conviction of at least nine city officials, including Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr., who was sentenced to 64 months for racketeering conspiracy. His bad: refusing to identify the person who leaked him an F.B.I. videotape in 2001 related to an investigation of government corruption in Providence.
posted by acrobat (59 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Meanwhile, Bob "Douchebag" Novak is still free...
posted by mkultra at 7:48 AM on November 19, 2004


Remember: it's not just this thing. Add to all the other little details (just check other relevant MeFi posts) to see a pattern. What? You see no pattern? Move on then. Nothing to see here.
posted by acrobat at 7:50 AM on November 19, 2004


--See Japanese interwar government during Reign of Showa emperor (Peace Preservation Laws anyone?) History repeats itself?
posted by RobertFrost at 7:51 AM on November 19, 2004


Had no idea he went by "douchebag." Is that something he picked up on college?
posted by flarbuse at 7:51 AM on November 19, 2004


Give us some links, RobertFrost. Dont't expect us to do all the work!
posted by acrobat at 7:55 AM on November 19, 2004


Here's one link -- not history as such, but a story arising from one director's recollections of the latter part of the interwar period.
posted by lodurr at 8:06 AM on November 19, 2004


Jail time for those that steal evidence obtained during an ongoing FBI investigation. Or those that shelter the thief.

Why, it's practically Orwellian.
posted by veedubya at 8:07 AM on November 19, 2004


So, you expose someone who is a crook; he gets convicted, mainly because you exposed him; then you go to jail because you exposed him. Isn't (GOP's) democracy wonderful?
posted by acrobat at 8:19 AM on November 19, 2004


When there was a thread about this a couple months ago, someone stated that Novak is perhaps free to walk the streets because he revealed his source. We don't know what happened in the courtroom, but apparently this person isn't saying, and they're throwing the book at him.

And is the original poster saying Cianci has something to do with Plame, or is that a poorly constructed sentence?
posted by mathowie at 8:22 AM on November 19, 2004


Before you call America fascist, remember this:

In America, you do not get decapitated for your religion.

In America, women can drive, vote, and be seen in public.

The only fascism that exists today is in the Middle East, and thank God or Nature that we have somebody with the balls to fight it.

(Let the flaming begin)
posted by dancingbaptist at 8:23 AM on November 19, 2004


Journalists have gone to jail for years for refusing to disclose sources. You might even try reading Branzburg v. Hayes, a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1972, where you'll learn that reporters do not have a First Amendment right to protect their sources in connection with a criminal matter. You could also read the appeal court's decision in Taricani's case.

But please don't let pesky "facts" get in the way of your "slipping towards fascism" fantasy.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:30 AM on November 19, 2004


Normally I would be all over an attack on the Freedom of the Press, but reading the story carefully, I'm not so sure in this case. The judge ordered no tapes were to be released, and a tape was "released" er...leaked. If Taricani wants to go to jail to protect the confidentiality of his sources that is fine by me. But in this case he actually assisted in a crime.

If a judge ordered that no pictures be released in a kiddie porn trial and pictures ended up in the Star Newspaper the next day, would you defend the journalist? I suspect many people would, demanding Freedom of the Press at all cost, but I see shades of gray here.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:30 AM on November 19, 2004


You want some flaming, dancingbaptist? I don't give a fuck if Jordan, for example, is a fascist state. It means nothing to the rest of the world. Now, if America does it.... (and, if you're in need of balls, then...)
posted by acrobat at 8:36 AM on November 19, 2004


Way to flamebait on your first day, dancingbaptist. I, for one, won't take the bait.
posted by jpoulos at 8:37 AM on November 19, 2004


Acrobat... so you don't care about the middle east. What about Canada's recent decision to allow Islamic law to oppress women? What about the Philippines?
posted by dancingbaptist at 8:40 AM on November 19, 2004


Pegging this story as an example of a stone along the path to AmeriFascism is questionable at best. Reporters have been going to jail for contempt for well - since at least before the muckraking days in the 1880s. If the reporter had been sent to jail based on some provision in the Patriot Act, then you might have a (minor) case.
posted by stevis at 8:48 AM on November 19, 2004


Man, I find this more than a little distressing. Not sure how this consitutes fascism, exactly. Falls into the pattern of intimidation, though.

What would your reaction be, as a fellow reporter/correspondant? I can't help but hear the lack of outrage. If one of my trade was taken out like this, I'd want to shine light on it. There but for the grace of god, etc...

veedubya, your sarcasm is scathing. Why, I can't help but think that the justice department has been lampooning the low expectations of cynics by exploring how much worse it can behave.

dancingbaptist: if your only object is to flamebait, try to keep the ridiculous part of your bait until later. fascism = beheadings? interesting litmus test, that.
posted by Busithoth at 8:49 AM on November 19, 2004


Fascism is a very serious word to throw around. Use it carefully.
posted by stevis at 8:51 AM on November 19, 2004


fas·cism
n.

1. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

2. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.

----

3 (maybe 4, if you consider total control of the government by a single party) out of 6 ain't bad. err... uhmm... wait a second!
posted by C.Batt at 8:53 AM on November 19, 2004


It's all about keeping the news media in fear, instead of the news media keeping government in check. Our country is lost.
posted by fleener at 9:04 AM on November 19, 2004


C.Batt, how exactly is prosecuting Taricani an example of "censorship" against "the opposition"? Taricani's case involves revealing FBI evidence in a local corruption case -- not exactly the subject matter that equates to opposition against the GOP (acrobat's leaps of logic notwithstanding). Moreover, how is Taricani being "censored"?
posted by pardonyou? at 9:06 AM on November 19, 2004


pardonyou? nailed it. This has nothing to do with censorship. If Taricani has gotten the same information through legal means, he would be free to publish it. But it's clear that he assisted in a crime, and that's what he's being punished for.

What would the alternative to this outcome be? Allowing people to break the law if the courts decided that good came out of it? If the state gets to decide which acts to punish and which not to punish based on its interpretation of the value of the outcome, then it would be much closer to a fascist state than the one we have now.
posted by painquale at 9:08 AM on November 19, 2004


I am a reporter -- and I'd do the same thing as this one did, even if it meant going to jail. I need my sources to trust me when I say I'll maintain their confidentiality -- if they don't I can't do my job -- and that is an attack on the 1st Amendment and a definite corruption of our country's ideals. Look at what happened to this reporter.

And you don't necessarily "assist" in a crime in this country by receiving information that the government's tried to keep secret.
posted by nospecialfx at 9:10 AM on November 19, 2004


"Taricani's case involves revealing FBI evidence in a local corruption case"

And the FBI was going to have reveal it in the first place. The problem here are gag orders like the one in this case and the amount of secrecy over taking US courts. But people will sacrifice their right to know for a false sense of security anytime, I guess.
posted by nospecialfx at 9:12 AM on November 19, 2004


To see censorship, notice the coffins of those who died fighting 'islamofascism' in what used to be the secular country of Iraq.

db: shhh, listen.
posted by wah at 9:12 AM on November 19, 2004


Yeesh... Some of you are getting the basic facts wrong.

First of all, the FBI tape was leaked to Taricani from inside a grand jury, which is a federal crime. Taricani is not a whistleblower. It's not as if this information wouldn't have come out, or wouldn't have been acted upon if it wasn't for Taricani. Taricani wanted a scoop, wanted to boost WJAR's ratings, so he broke the law and broadcast a piece of evidence from an on-going investigation of Cianci.

Taricani, along with Judith Miller and her ilk, want to be bestowed special privileges because they're "journalists". Well fuck that, now there's two classes of free speech - Journalists and everyone else? Hell no. If it was Jim "the bus driver" Taricani who was withholding this information, his ass would go to jail. Why shouldn't Jim "the journalists" go?

But living in Rhode Island, and knowing a little bit about Rhode Island politics, the most ridiculous thing about this whole case is that the leakers identity is an open secret. Providence is a small place, and word gets around.
posted by SweetJesus at 9:14 AM on November 19, 2004


so you don't care about the middle east. What about Canada's recent decision to allow Islamic law to oppress women? What about the Philippines?

Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. —William Faulkner
posted by rushmc at 9:18 AM on November 19, 2004


The point is, to all for a free press guaranteed by the first amendment -- journalists need to be able to operate independently. Forcing him to give up a source makes him an agent of the governement, which violates the first amendment.

Whether you like it or not, erroding press freedom and independence is never good. They agree here, here, here and here.

And also, leaking the tape may have been a crime, but publishing it was not. That's not the issue here -- instead of investigating without erroding press freedoms, the police are trying to use Taricani as an agent -- forcing him to give up information. He may be a material witness, but he's also a journalist and that does deserve special consideration.
posted by nospecialfx at 9:23 AM on November 19, 2004




From NBC in Providence:

"Freedom of press and speech of course are fundamental in our Constitution, and we better all live up to that and see that is lived up to or our Constitution is in deep trouble and so is our democracy," Cronkite said." and ...

"although the videotape was subject to a protective order, the broadcast of the videotape was not illegal."

From the WSJ:

"In the Taricani case, ..., the government has little to gain from the confidential information it seeks. The public, however, has much to lose. Without being able to ensure the anonymity of their sources, journalists would be severely hampered, especially in their most essential activity of exposing what corrupt elected officials or corporate officers would rather keep hidden."
posted by nospecialfx at 9:29 AM on November 19, 2004


Apropos of begging the fascism question- which seems to happen a lot these days- Robert Paxton, author of what's considered the definitive book on the Vichy regime, has a new book out, The Anatomy of Fascism, which explores fascism in various historical contexts, and attempts to provide a nuanced yet comprehensive definition of the term. It may be the most significant attempt to do so since Hannah Arendt's 1951 Origins of Totalitarianism, which was profoundly shaped by the immediate context of Stalinism, the Cold War, and the revelations of the Nazi genocides. In these times of dark politics and loose language I highly recommend it.

That said, I can't help but think that the fascism label- while accurate in some respects- reflects a certain intellectual limitation among those of us on the American left. Fifty years later, German fascism still seems to be the primary point of departure for any discussion of creeping authoritarianism in the United States. And while it's probably the most useful cautionary tale of the 20th century, I think it is preventing from a more relevant assessment of what's happening stateside. Things can become awful in a particularly American way, one that's distinct from European fascism but no less perilous as a result.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 9:29 AM on November 19, 2004


The leaker may have committed a crime, but the reporter did not. He faces jail for, specifically, refusing to comply with a judge's order.

The judge wants to turn the reporter into a witness against the reporter's source. (Which happens with some frequency in the U.S.)

The reporter is resisting. (So far.) It ain't pretty, but it ain't fascism, either.
posted by sacre_bleu at 9:35 AM on November 19, 2004


Ah, I love the smell of hyperbole in the morning...
posted by m0nm0n at 9:38 AM on November 19, 2004


Plunderdome? Two men enter. One man leaves.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:47 AM on November 19, 2004


so you don't care about the middle east. What about Canada's recent decision to allow Islamic law to oppress women? What about the Philippines?

What about them?

Last I checked this was an FPP about something that occured in the United States. Pointing fingers at others and saying "they're worse" is avoiding the topic at hand, though it is a good diversion tactic. I think the idea is to call this out so we can avoid erosion of some basic rights that those of us who live in the United States enjoy.

If you wish to discuss world fascism please feel free to create an FPP with links. I'd be interested in reading it, and it would add some nice international flavor to MeFi.
posted by Eekacat at 9:50 AM on November 19, 2004


The point is, to all for a free press guaranteed by the first amendment -- journalists need to be able to operate independently. Forcing him to give up a source makes him an agent of the government, which violates the first amendment.

This is not a freedom of speech issue, and it's not even necessarily a freedom of the press issue. People are compelled all the time to testify against their will, on everything from murder to tort cases. We're not talking about the Pentagon Papers here, this was an on-going investigation into corruption in Providence.

Are there no limits to freedom of speech? Would you think it ethically and morally right to start printing the names of victims in rape cases, because a) the public has a right to know, or b) because they (the media) can? And why should journalists have the ability to do this, but you and I can't?

And while we're on that topic, what the hell is a journalist? Do you need to go to college to be a journalist, and have a degree, or is it something you gradually become? Just what the fuck makes Taricani's freedom of speech more free that mine?

And also, leaking the tape may have been a crime, but publishing it was not. That's not the issue here -- instead of investigating without eroding press freedoms, the police are trying to use Taricani as an agent -- forcing him to give up information

A tape was illegally leaked from a on-going grand jury investigation to Taricani, head of the news department at WJAR, which was then used as a sensationalistic ratings booster for the station, and in some ways could have impeded the progress of the F.B.I investigation. Taricani is not being prosecuted for airing the tape, but for refusing to divulge the identity of the leaker.

And those of you not in Rhode Island, everyone knew Cianci was crooked. You're talking about a guy who used the State Police to hold down his ex-wife's boyfriend while he pissed on his face, and put a cigar out on his eye.... And he was STILL re-elected after that came out because, hey not for nothing, we got a mall now and you can walk Downcity without being shot, which wasn't the case before he was mayor... That's the Rhode Island way of thinking about it.
posted by SweetJesus at 9:59 AM on November 19, 2004


What about Canada's recent decision to allow Islamic law to oppress women?

as i understand it, in civil disputes muslims will be allowed to have a muslim arbitrator, in the same way christians & hasidic jews have been able to do for years, and if the decision of the arbitrator is contrary to current canadian law the decision is not recognized and then overturned. so i'm failing to see where i should be getting all worked up about fascism... seems i should be worrying more about the further privatization of family court.
posted by t r a c y at 10:11 AM on November 19, 2004


Forcing him to give up a source makes him an agent of the governement, which violates the first amendment.

Um, not since 1972 it doesn't.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:18 AM on November 19, 2004


Most states have shield laws which make it a violation -- just because case law from 30 years ago and the federal government haven't caught up doesn't make it a violation. Our laws are reinterpreted every day, especially when they were interpreted poorly in the first place.

And, okay... every other news organization in the country would call this a first amendment issue, but SweetJesus, you apparently know better.
posted by nospecialfx at 10:23 AM on November 19, 2004


If it was Jim "the bus driver" Taricani who was withholding this information, his ass would go to jail. Why shouldn't Jim "the journalists" go?

especially when jim is a more qualified bus driver than journalist. i'd go one better, and make all "journalists" personally and fiscally responsible for any misreporting. yeah, breaking news would break a little slower, but when it did, it'd fucking be accurate.
posted by quonsar at 10:41 AM on November 19, 2004


And, okay... every other news organization in the country would call this a first amendment issue, but SweetJesus, you apparently know better.

Right, but I've been following this case for two years, and I know a fair amount about it. I live in Rhode Island, and I've had the opportunity to meet Taricani on more than one occasion. The free-speech part of this issue is simply spin, although very effective spin. It really has nothing to do with free speech, as you or I would be arrested or thrown in jail if either one of us did what Taricani did.

And since you're such a fucking expert, why not answer some of the question I posed above instead of that "everyone else says its a free speech issue" appeal-to-authority logical fallacy.

just because case law from 30 years ago and the federal government haven't caught up doesn't make it a violation

So you're saying a Supreme Court decision from 30 years ago has no bearing on current case law? Who says the government hasn't caught up, or is even trying to? Some people may not like abortion, but I doubt they'd say Roe v. Wade is just 30 year old case law.

And since I'm going to bet that you didn't read the Branzburg v. Hayes decision that pardonyou? linked to, I'll quote some.
The First Amendment does not relieve a newspaper reporter of the obligation that all citizens have to respond to a grand jury subpoena and answer questions relevant to a criminal investigation, and therefore the Amendment does not afford him a constitutional testimonial privilege for an agreement he makes to conceal facts relevant to a grand jury's investigation of a crime or to conceal the criminal conduct of his source or evidence thereof.
So how exactly is this a free speech issue?
posted by SweetJesus at 10:45 AM on November 19, 2004


Yeah, quonsar, what a great idea. And then we'll only see pieces of reporting friendly to local government and judges, because if anyone ever broke a story about corruption, they'd somehow find an inaccuracy and fine him until he was bankrupt.

Good idea. Sure would ensure accuracy.
posted by u.n. owen at 10:47 AM on November 19, 2004


If you're going to take quonsar seriously you should probably go and stand with the newbs.
posted by biffa at 10:52 AM on November 19, 2004


"He broke the law and broadcast a piece of evidence from an on-going investigation of Cianci."

In my layperson's opinion, I think that's the key: "an on-going investigation." Cianci's trial was not over, so broadcasting this could be said to interefere with his ability to get a fair trial. I think that's why they blur the "perps'" faces on COPS too.
posted by davy at 10:54 AM on November 19, 2004


Actually, they blur the 'perp' faces when the 'perp' refuses to allow their likeness to be broadcast on national TV...
I'm STILL shocked (as are the shows producers) at how many give their OK...
posted by Busithoth at 11:06 AM on November 19, 2004


because if anyone ever broke a story about corruption, they'd somehow find an inaccuracy and fine him until he was bankrupt.

knowing of the corruption and failing to accurately report it would be an obvious career killer, and also probably should carry some jail time. u.n. owen, as long as you continually, habitually, place yourself and your interests in a subservient position to government, institutions and corporations, you'll be on the receiving end of a big spinning shaft.


If you're going to take quonsar seriously you should probably go and stand with the newbs.


but not before imagining a world where people annointed with special "rights" also carry special responsibilities.
posted by quonsar at 11:14 AM on November 19, 2004


Yeah, quonsar, what a great idea. And then we'll only see pieces of reporting friendly to local government and judges, because if anyone ever broke a story about corruption, they'd somehow find an inaccuracy and fine him until he was bankrupt.

I'm not so sure you're right, and in some ways I agree with quonsar. If I'm a civil engineer, and I build a bridge, I can be held individually responsible for anything that goes wrong.

Why, then, should it be ok for reporters, in a rush to get a scoop, to print whatever the hell they want with no personal repercussions? Remember this guy? The AJC pretty much ruined his life in the rush to "feed the beast" and get the story out for the 24-hour news cycle.

I'm not trying be some fascist (since the word has come up already), but fact-checking has been thrown out the goddamn window over the past 30 years, ever since Watergate. There is such a frenzy now to scoop the other guy, more than there ever was before cable news and the internet, that the prevailing wisdom is "run it now, make corrections later", which is the exact opposite of what it should be. Journalists have morphed from reporters to media personalities and pundits, and it shows. Their job used to involve protecting the public interest, but today it's all about manufacturing scandal in-order to boost raitings, and sell more soap.

And I'm fucking tired of it.
posted by SweetJesus at 11:17 AM on November 19, 2004


Sweetjesus and pardonyou? have blown this issue apart.

What kind of legal system could possibly have ruled otherwise on this issue? It would have to be one of the following:

1) One in which journalists are able to invoke shield laws to protect their sources whenever they please (ie. one that isn't influenced by Branzburg vs. Hayes). This is clearly unacceptable, as it gives journalists a hell of a powerful right that the rest of the population doesn't (and shouldn't) have, and there are no good legal criteria for deciding if someone is a journalist or not.

Thought experiment: some student with a university radio show on politics is friends with a corrupt politician. He gets mad at his friend one day and mentions some words on air detailing his friend's maneuvers. The Feds find out, and want to subpoena the radio host, but doesn't want to testify against his friend. Is he a journalist? Should he be able to claim shield laws? Now get rid of the radio: say he just drops hints of his friend's maneuvers at a party. What's different?

Bottom line: shield laws might be appropriate in some cases, but they can't be based on a distinction between reporters and non-reporters.

2) One in which courts allow journalists to break the law if they see good coming out of the journalist's actions. This is even worse!

The situation is messy, and it unfortunately implies that journalists will sometimes have to break the law and be punished in order to do good. That's a risk journalists have to take. I'm especially persuaded by Sweetjesus's point that this guy wasn't putting out any information that wouldn't have gotten out there - he was just trying to boost his station's ratings, and broke the law to do so. If that's the case, it's obvious that this guy should be punished... and to have laws that punish people like him, we're going to end up punishing some people who we see as doing good.
posted by painquale at 11:27 AM on November 19, 2004


A world where people annointed with special "rights" also carry special responsibilities.

Quonsar, please let me see your list of "special" rights, as well your list of non-special rights even ordinary people would get. For starters I'd like to compare the lengths of the two lists.
posted by davy at 11:31 AM on November 19, 2004


pay attention davy.
posted by quonsar at 12:11 PM on November 19, 2004


What we need is another Bonaparte for Attorney General.
posted by clavdivs at 12:18 PM on November 19, 2004


This is silliness. If a grand jury required a Metafilter poster to disclose a confidential source, there would be no arguments about it. Contempt for you. There's no reason to give some special exemption from the law to big media, and there's no basis in the Constitution or in case law for letting reporters for major news outlets avoid obeying the law.
posted by esquire at 12:43 PM on November 19, 2004


If a grand jury required a Metafilter poster to disclose a confidential source, there would be no arguments about it.

Wrong. I'd argue about it. "Press" was never intended to apply only to multi-billion dollar corporations.
posted by rushmc at 2:10 PM on November 19, 2004


Earlier this year, the RI Supreme Court dropped a criminal-contempt case against the Providence Journal and the ABC affiliate, for ignoring an order prohibiting the media to show photographs or publish personal details of witnesses in a trial of a man who had allegedly ordered the killing of a witness in another murder trial he was involved in.

The point that Taricani is trying to make, and I agree with him, is that there needs to be protection in order for people to step forward with information. Given the ferocity with which Judge Torres pursued this, and the way the Supreme Court picks and chooses its media battles (dropping a case where witness safety was compromised, but convicting a man for something that is largely unimportant) makes me want to hold my tongue in the event I ever see something I shouldn't in Providence. And that's the larger issue- this ruling will prevent whistleblowers from going to the media.

Just my own $.02 from RI. Apparently I see Jim Taricani in a different light than SweetJesus.
posted by Ruki at 2:17 PM on November 19, 2004


pay attention davy.

I am. You were on about "special 'rights' also carry special responsibilities." So you're kvetching not about the existence of "special" rights but their about distribution. That it's not that no animals are more equal than others -- those with "special" responsibilities clearly would qualify -- just that you want to pick what responsibilities get called "special" and who gets to have them.

Maybe I did read you wrong. Do you hold that there are never any "special" responsibilities that entitle their bearers to "special" rights? Are you a totally Utopian anarchist?
posted by davy at 2:50 PM on November 19, 2004


Are you all totally missing the argument that it might be hard to pick a decent jury in the venue where the tape was televised?

Does a reporter's right to a big scoop obviate a citizen's right to a fair trial? You have heard that they try to pick jury members who have not already formed an opinion about the case based on things like, oh, what they've seen on the TV news, right?

Sometimes even judges do the right thing for the wrong reason.
posted by davy at 3:02 PM on November 19, 2004


The only fascism that exists today is in the Middle East

So what do you call e.g. Singapore, Myanmar, or "Communist" China?
posted by davy at 3:37 PM on November 19, 2004


The point that Taricani is trying to make, and I agree with him, is that there needs to be protection in order for people to step forward with information. Given the ferocity with which Judge Torres pursued this, and the way the Supreme Court picks and chooses its media battles (dropping a case where witness safety was compromised, but convicting a man for something that is largely unimportant) makes me want to hold my tongue in the event I ever see something I shouldn't in Providence. And that's the larger issue- this ruling will prevent whistleblowers from going to the media.

I guess I could see your point about this, and I agree in principal, but I just don't believe this is Taricani's position form what I've read (feel free to enlighten me). Taricani's position has always been one of free speech, or his "newsman's privilege" to not reveal sources. If you read Torres's summary, I think that's clear. Here's an excerpt.
Taricani’s principal substantive argument on appeal is that it violates the First Amendment to hold him in civil contempt for refusing to answer questions as to who leaked the taped material to him. When he refused to answer, the civil contempt citation followed. The First Amendment argument is an uphill one in light of the Supreme Court's Branzburg decision, but it has several facets and we take them in order.

In Branzburg, the Supreme Court flatly rejected any notion of a general-purpose reporter's privilege for confidential sources, whether by virtue of the First Amendment or of a newly hewn common law privilege. Id. 408 U.S. at 682, 690-91, 701. The Court stressed inter alia the importance of criminal investigations, the usual obligation of citizens to provide evidence, and the lack of proof that news-gathering required such a privilege. Id. at 685-707. Justice Powell, who wrote separately but joined in the majority opinion as the necessary fifth vote, also rejected any general-purpose privilege.

....

The three leading cases in this circuit require "heightened sensitivity" to First Amendment concerns and invite a "balancing" of considerations (at least in situations distinct from Branzburg). Cusumano, 162 F.3d 716-17; LaRouche, 841 F.2d at 1182-83; Bruno, 633 F.2d at 596-99. In substance, these cases suggest that the disclosure of a reporter's confidential sources may not be compelled unless directly relevant to a nonfrivolous claim or inquiry undertaken in good faith; and disclosure may be denied where the same information is readily available from a less
sensitive source.

How far these constraints may be constitutional requirements (as opposed to prudential considerations) is unsettled; the Supreme Court twice rejected any automatic requirement that non-confidential sources be exhausted. Univ. of Pa. v. EEOC, 493 U.S. 182, 201 (1990); Branzburg, 408 U.S. at 701-02. In all events, in this case there is no doubt that the request to Taricani was for information highly relevant to a good faith criminal investigation; and, as already noted, that reasonable efforts were made to obtain the information elsewhere.
I belive what Torres is essentially saying, is that by leaking this evidence from an on-going investigation, Taricani made is harder to insure that Cianci would get a fair trial. Also at question is wether or not it was the prosecution who leaked the tape, which could potentially (at the time) result in a mistrial for Cianci.

My overall view on this subject is this: The video tape was not a smoking gun, in so much as the public needed immediate disclosure. There was an FBI investigation that was on-going, and leaking the tape to the media (in good or bad-faith) served to do nothing but whip up innuendo, and feed the fire. Cianci was a crooked bastard, but even crooked bastards have the right to a fair trial in accordance with American law. If a judge puts a piece evidence under seal, it is universally bad for all of us if the evidence finds its way out and nothing is done about it. I firmly believe that Taricani made the decision to broadcast this tape not out of some dedication to the well-being of the public, but for purely cynical reasons, ie boosting the raitings of WJAR and getting more publicity for himself.

But prove me wrong. I get tired being so cynical sometimes, and some dark recess of my heart I want to believe that maybe, just maybe, he's not the douche I think he is.
posted by SweetJesus at 4:19 PM on November 19, 2004


Before you call America fascist, remember this:

In America, you do not get decapitated for your religion.

In America, women can drive, vote, and be seen in public.

The only fascism that exists today is in the Middle East


Holy fucking shit go back into the five-dollar bill from whence you came.
posted by scarabic at 12:06 AM on November 20, 2004


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