Man Without Qualities

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sources IV

Perfectly valid waivers of fundamental constitutional rights - such as guilty pleas and confessions to serious crimes - are routinely extracted from suspects under much more "coercion" than a media source such as Messrs. Rove or Libby face in deciding whether to sign waivers of confidentiality. ("Cut a deal with us, buster," says Good Cop, "and I'll see that you get only half the sentence of your accomplice and that your underaged son goes free even though he was involved in your drug ring!") Reviewing courts routinely uphold the validity of such guilty pleas and confessions, and such suspects thereby become convicts and are routinely sent to prison or execution. Are confidential source waivers signed by high officials supposed to be held to a higher standard of coercion than a confession to murder? Of course not.

The concerns of the media - including Cooper and the New York Times - about confidential source waivers have nothing to do with whether such waivers are somehow invalid. What the media cares about is whether honoring such waivers might restrict the flow of future leaks to the media (hence the attention being paid to reports that some potential sources already won't talk to TIME because of TIME's capitulation to the special prosecutor and the court in the Plame matter). That doesn't make the media wicked. But claims from those such as Miller, Sulzberger and Cooper that they are focused on some kind of coercive invalidity of such waivers is flatulence passed off as high principle. At least the Times and Ms. Miller have the relative honesty not to suggest that there is a difference between blanket and specific waivers in such considerations - a phony distinction to which Mr. Cooper (as discussed here) pretends to his great personal disadvantage.

Mr. Cooper's version of events is also undermined by another consideration: Suppose, as his attorney claims, Mr. Cooper could not contact Mr. Rove to obtain a specific waiver out of concern that Mr. Cooper might be accused of obstruction of justice (an absurdity, but take it as a hypothesis). Then Mr. Cooper had only to explain his concern to the special prosecutor and have the special prosecutor tell every person who had executed a blanket waiver of Mr. Cooper's concern and assure each such person that it was fine with the special prosecutor for anyone who had spoken with Mr. Cooper to execute an addendum to the blanket waiver stating that the waiver specifically applied to Matt Cooper and his interviews. A form of an acceptable addendum could have been helpfully provided to the special prosecutor by Mr. Cooper's attorney. That would have disgorged the "desired" specific waiver from Mr. Rove immediately - in the unlikely event that Mr. Cooper and his attorney ever cared about such things in the first place.

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