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June 30, 2005

Time and 'Press Freedom'

This Reuters report on Time's decision to hand over a reporter's notes - including the identities of certain heretofore anonymous sources - makes much of the impact of the decision on First Amendment 'press freedom.' On the off chance that anyone reads my blog anymore, I'd be gratified if someone would explain to me just how the decision to reveal sources at all diminishes the freedom of the press.

UPDATE (16:33 CST): First, thanks to Ryan for establishing that I'm not totally alone on this one - the conventional wisdom certainly appears otherwse.

Next, in reading some of the stories I've noticed a couple of things that are - what's the technical term? - wrong. From the New York Times:

In an interview, Norman Pearlstine, Time Inc.'s editor in chief, said he made the decision after much reflection.

"I found myself really coming to the conclusion," he said, "that once the Supreme Court has spoken in a case involving national security and a grand jury, we are not above the law and we have to behave the way ordinary citizens do."

And from that Reuters piece:
The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling that the two [reporters] should be held in contempt of court....

"The Supreme Court has limited press freedom in ways that will have a chilling effect on our work and that may damage the free flow of information that is so necessary in a democratic society," Time Editor in Chief Norman Pearlstine said.

Wrong and wrong. The Supreme Court has not spoken, and they have not 'let stand' any ruling except in the most passive sense. The Court was petitioned to review a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Supreme Court receives thousands of such petitions every year. It hears and renders opinions in a very small fraction of such cases. A decision by the Supreme Court not to hear a case has absolutely no legal precedential value. It means nothing. The Supreme Court has expressed absolutely no opinion on the matter. The controlling authority remains the D.C. Circuit court of appeals. Other circuits remain free to disagree, and it's quite possible that, in time, the Supreme Court will hear a similar case and overturn the D.C. Circuit's holding. But as of today, it has neither affirmed nor reversed the holding.

You'd think, incidentally, that reporters, in the course of alleging some special privilege for their profession, would try not to be be so, you know, wrong.

Finally, the Times offers a brief partial-explanation of the First Amendment claim:
The press has traditionally argued that it needs confidential sources to ensure that the public is fully informed.
The argument seems to be this: without anonymity, certain sources will no longer be available to reporters; without those sources, certain information will not be published; without the publication of that information, the public will not be fully informed.

Now before I rant let me make clear that I've not studied First Amendment jurisprudence, so my arguments are based on what I think the First Amendment probably should mean, and not on what the Supreme Court has interpreted it to mean.

The First Amendment reads, in relevant part: "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom... of the press." In plain terms, the press should be 'free,' and Congress may pass no law that would create an obstacle to that 'freedom.'

Requiring reporters to divulge the identity of sources when required by a criminal investigation poses no obstacle to press freedom. Reporters may still approach whomever they want; they can still cite anonymously, confident that the anonymity will not be challenged unless the source is involved in a matter requiring criminal investigation. And they can still publish any information they receive from a source, whether or not that source is anonymous.

The only 'chill' that will result from the D.C. Circuit's ruling, then, is a chill among people who would have given information to reporters under cloak of anonymity, but who will not do so if their identity may be revealed. If anyone has a potential First Amendment claim, it wouldn't be the press but their sources, whose 'freedom of speech' might be said to have been curtailed by the decision. And yet even this claim would be specious: any law punishing individuals for divulging information will almost necessarily have passed a First Amendment test (and if it hasn't, the source is free to challenge it on such grounds).

The D.C. Circuit's decision may well make a reporter's job more difficult by making sources less willing to come forward - but the First Amendment does not guarantee to the press an easy job. Nor does it guarantee to the public full information. It merely prohibits Congress from acting affirmatively to restrict the ability of the press to operate. That simply hasn't happened here.

Posted by David Mader at 02:45 PM | (3) | Back to Main

June 28, 2005

Same Words, Different Meaning

Andrew Sullivan highlights a commencement address by Steve Jobs which centers around the following quote:

'If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.'
Jobs continues: "It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."

What I find interesting is that I take the exact opposite message from the quote. Jobs understands the phrase "someday you'll most certainly be right" to be a promise which serves to underscore the necessity of 'liv[ing] each day as if it was your last.' I'd take it to be a warning: if you live your life as if you have no future, you'll be more likely to put yourself in a situation that endangers your future.

And, unsurprisingly, I like my interpretation better. Living for the now can be beneficial, and certainly is important for some. But in the 1990s, living for the now became civic religion - to the detriment, I'd argue, of America and the West. Having no care for tomorrow translates into an abdication of - and even a disdain for - responsibility. Instead of anticipating death, why not anticipate life?

Posted by David Mader at 06:35 PM | (1) | Back to Main

'Was Acknowledging'

President Bush will speak at Fort Bragg tonight, but according to the Associated Press he already has:

President Bush on Tuesday appealed for the nation's patience for "difficult and dangerous" work ahead in Iraq, hoping a backdrop of U.S. troops and a reminder of Iraq's revived sovereignty would help him reclaim control of an issue that has eroded his popularity.

In an evening address at an Army base that has 9,300 troops in Iraq, Bush was acknowledging the toll of the 27-month-old war. At the same time, he aimed to persuade skeptical Americans that his strategy for victory needed only time — not any changes — to be successful.

Emphasis mine. Why 'was acknowledging' rather than 'acknowledged'? The only good reason is because Bush has done no such thing, and the AP can justify its language as involving a reference to materials released in advance of the speech, and not to the speech itself.

Why does the White House continue to play this lazy, sloppy old-media game? Would it hurt the Associated Press so much if it were forced to actually, you know, report something?

Posted by David Mader at 04:46 PM | (0) | Back to Main

June 27, 2005

'Liberty Finds No Refuge in a Jurisprudence of Doubt'

Court: Some Ten Commandments Displays OK

Actually, the blame here goes not to today's court for seemingly splitting the baby on the Commandments cases, but to the Casey court for writing that sententious sentence.

Posted by David Mader at 02:54 PM | (1) | Back to Main

June 21, 2005

The Downing Street Memos

As best I can tell, the uproar over the Downing Street Memos centers on the fact that they appear to demonstrate that Bush and Blair & Co. decided to go to war before they settled upon a public justification for the war, and that their emphasis on WMD was therefore a post-facto excuse.


Can we all now agree that the decision to go to the UN was a mistake? A year ago President Bush was said to have capitulated to his Secretary of State and his friend the Prime Minister of the UK, acceding to their combined request to go to the UN in order to achieve a 'multilateral coalition' on Iraq. In order to do so, the administration had to frame the Iraqi conflict in the terms of the organization's existing beef: WMD.
That's what I wrote on October 3, 2003. So you'll understand if I'm not entirely surprised at the 'revelation.' Some of us, you see, were paying attention the first time.

Some of us, that is to say, believed that Saddam Hussein needed to be removed a) because he was a murdering tyrant. If another reason was needed - a reason, for instance, why this murdering tyrant should be removed before all the rest (although I'm not that picky) - it was b) because, as the leading anti-American figure in the cesspool of the mid-east, Saddam acted as a key-stone for the region; his removal, the argument went - and certain Maderblog readers will recall that I made it at the time - would weaken the institutional support for Islamism across the region.

Blair and Powell believed, no doubt correctly, that these two reasons would not be enough to persuade certain western nations to support an Iraqi venture. As a result they decided to frame the necessity of Saddam's removal in terms already adopted by the reluctant nations - in other words, in the terms of the oustanding U.N. resolutions sanctioning Saddam. The hope was that if the reluctant nations were not persuaded by America's first case for Saddam's removal, they would at least be persuaded by their own arguments.

That, of course, was not the case, and the U.N.'s refusal to endorse the Iraqi war demonstrated clearly that the reluctant nations would not have supported a removal of Saddam Hussein under any justification. I've argued that, in retrospect, it wasn't worth the bother, and insofar as Bush and Blair were strategically bound to focus on the WMD issue to a degree far out of proportion with its actual relative importance, they're deserving of criticism. You'll remember that I criticized them on this point almost two years ago.

If there's a solid factual allegation that Bush and Blair fabricated any of their WMD evidence, I haven't seen it. The BBC's famous 'sexed up' allegations were famously deep-sixed by Lord Hutton. The key charge made by the champions of the Downing Street Memos, as best I can tell, is that Bush and Blair told a story about WMD that they didn't really mean. It's time that those champions had the question turned around on them. Was there any story that Bush and Blair could have told that would have won their support for the Iraqi war? Put another way: critics often claim that there are 'lots of tyrants,' and that there were no compelling reasons to topple Saddam among all. So here's a free counterfactual: whose removal would you have supported? And - be honest now - had Bush proposed and realized such a removal, would you have truly supported him?

I think we all know the answer.

UPDATE (23:59 CST): Christopher Hitchens:
We have been here before. In an interview with Sam Tanenhaus for Vanity Fair more than two years ago, Paul Wolfowitz allowed that, though there were many reasons to seek the removal of Saddam Hussein, the legal minimum basis for it was to be sought, inside the U.S. government bureaucracy and at the United Nations, in the unenforced resolutions concerning WMD.

Posted by David Mader at 10:53 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Digging In

Andrew Sullivan won't back down:

So go ahead: answer his implied question. If you had been told that prisoners had been found in this state in one of Saddam's or Stalin's jails, would you have believed it?[...]

The moral question that Durbin is absolutely right to raise is a simple one: two years ago, would you have ever believed that the United States would be guilty of such a dehumanized treatment of a prisoner in its care? If the particulars had been changed, would you have believed that such a thing could have happened in a totalitarian regime's prison?

The comparison remains facile. Look, I'm with Dan S. as far as it goes - the real issue should indeed be the alleged torture, and perhaps the Downing Street memos (and I'll soon have a post explaining why I don't see the big fuss). And if Sullivan were to say that, I'd be with him too. But he doesn't. Instead he sticks to his guns: comparing Gitmo to Auschwitz is a-ok because you wouldn't be surprised to find sleep deprivation at Auschwitz.

As I noted earlier, I, for one, would indeed be shocked if the activities described by Durbin, or those alleged by Sullivan, were said to be the extent of Nazi or Communist or Khmer Rouge evildoing, as they are said to be the extent of American evildoing. But of course being "left in extremes of heat and cold, shackled, covered in their own urine and excrement, with one having apparently torn parts of his hair out, and left without food or water for up to 24 sleepless hours" wasn't nearly the extent of Nazi evil.

Sullivan's argument seems to come down, at root, to what in American criminal law is called a lesser included offense. The Nazis, the Communists and the Khmer Rouge were mass-murdering tyrants. In the course and furtherance of their tyranny, they deprived prisoners of sleep, comfort and dignity. American soldiers at Gitmo and elsewhere have also deprived prisoners of sleep, comfort and dignity. Ergo, a comparison between American soldiers on the one hand and Nazis, Communists and Khmer Rouge on the other is appropriate.

The argument doesn't fly, of course. Every murder involves an assault; that doesn't mean that every assault deserves to be compared to murder. It also doesn't mean, and please let me state this clearly, that assault should be forgiven. I don't mean to suggest that American abuses should be excused. But it is vitally important to distinguish between American abuses and Nazi, Communist and Khmer Rouge abuses. As Sullivan himself writes, "The moral question is not simply of degree - how widespread and systematic is this kind of inhumanity? It is of kind: is this the kind of behavior more associated with despots than with democracies?" Sullivan inexcusably ignores that other kind of behavior inevitably (I'd hoped, although apparently not anymore) associated with Nazis, Communism and Khmer Rouge tyranny, which cannot, under any method of rational analysis, be associated to the armed forces of the United States. To assert otherwise is to either a) trivialize actual genocide and mass murder or b) make unfounded accusations of genocide and mass murder against American forces.

And incidentally, with respect to my friend Dan S., my strong reaction to Durbin's comments are neither political nor phoney. Words mean something - that used to be a liberal notion. Nazism and Communism - both Soviet and Cambodian - should mean something too. But with Durbin's comments, and Sullivan's apology, they don't.

UPDATE (23:26 CST): Durbin has apologised, for the second time. More or less. It's actually precisely the sort of non-apology I detest. But it's clear that, although the words are wrong, the thought is right - Durbin realizes that his comparison was way off base. Kudos to him for backing down.

Posted by David Mader at 10:25 PM | (0) | Back to Main

June 20, 2005

Nothing Wrong?

Andrew Sullivan says Dick Durbin was right to condemn the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay; rather, he says Durbin said 'nothing wrong.' He quotes the following passage from Durbin's speech, an excerpt from a report on conditions at Gitmo:

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold... On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."
Sullivan then undermines his suggestion that he believes Durbin said nothing wrong by failing to quote Durbin's own words, spoken immediately after he had read the preceding passage in the Senate:
If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.
The emphasis is mine; compare Durbin's remarks to Sullivan's:
If he were told this story and informed that it occurred in, say, Serbia under Milosevic, would he be surprised?
The fact that Sullivan replaced Durbin's invocation of Nazis, Soviet Communists and Khmer Rouge with Milosovic is telling. Presumably Sullivan knows that had the Nazis employed the tactics described by Durbin - and not the tactics they actually employed - many of us would still have family on the other side of the Atlantic. Presumably Sullivan is not joining Durbin in trivializing the Holocaust. Presumably Sullivan is not joining Durbin in excusing Soviet terror and murder. Presumably Sullivan is not joining Durbin in trivializing the Cambodian genocide.

Presumably. But then, Sullivan says Durbin said 'nothing wrong.'


I'm a word away from dropping Sullivan from the blogroll. I've read him consistently for the past - boy - three years, at least. I continued to read after he renounced normative American conservatism, and in large part because he renounced normative American conservatism. I continued to read him even as others dismissed him. I continued to read him because I believed he voiced a principled and excellent expression of a much-needed opposition to the prevailing political expression in this country.

But there is a line. Doubtless Sullivan ignores - entirely ignores - Durbin's trivializations because he is focused on the rest of Durbin's substantive comments. Perhaps he actually does not realize, so caught up is he in Durbin's expressions of his own disgust with Gitmo, that conservative outraged is centered overwhelmingly - I would suggest almost solely - on Durbin's trivialization. But that's no excuse. What could be the justification? A little Holocaust denial is never ok, even in the context of an otherwise legitimate argument. A little Communist apology is never ok. A little dismissal of the Cambodian dead is never acceptable.

Nothing wrong?


Posted by David Mader at 11:28 PM | (1) | Back to Main

It's All Moot Now, Of Course

Brian Neale brings us an interesting poll from Environics:

A majority (64%) think that [the Supreme Court's recent] ruling “will lead to two-tiered healthcare in Canada – one for the rich and one for the poor”, and 57% would like their “province to use the Notwithstanding Clause to ban private insurance and protect public healthcare”. Most (57%)believe “doctors and nurses will be leaving the public system to work in a new private system, which will cause shortages in the public system”.

But Canadians are split when it comes to whether or not they think the court’s ruling will lead to American-style healthcare in Canada – half think it will (50%), the other half does not (47%). In fact, seven in ten (70%) agree they should be able to buy services from a private healthcare provider if they want to – 37% strongly feely this way...

The emphasis is mine. In short, a majority of Canadians oppose private payment for healthcare, but a majority of Canadians support private provision of healthcare.

There seems to be very little possibility of conducting a reasoned and calm discussion on the merits of mixed or private payment for health-care; it may be as close as we have to a third rail right now. I don't think that's true for private provision. In fact,I think that the Conservatives - or provincial parties - could be very successful by a) de-linking provision and funding in the public mind, and b) demonstrating how private provision would lead to better and cheaper services.
I'm not saying that had Stephen Harper followed my line he'd be Prime Minister right now; I'm just saying I Told You So.

By the by, this isn't the first poll to find such a public-opinion split - see here, from a year ago this month.

Posted by David Mader at 10:08 PM | (0) | Back to Main

June 16, 2005

Morgentaler Advocates Return to Death Penalty

In his commencement address at the University of Western Ontarion, Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Canada's leading abortionist, advocated a return to capital punishment. Did you miss that part? Don't worry - so did he.

Morgentaler said:

As a result of the Morgentaler decision by the Supreme Court of Canada and the establishment of abortion clinics in seven provinces, access [to abortion] in most parts of the country can be described as good. It can be said that 95% of Canadian women now have good access to adequate abortion services.

As a result . . . [t]he crime rate, especially violent crime, has been decreasing in North America since 1991. I believe the most important factor is that there are fewer unwanted children…..fewer children likely to be abused, brutalized and neglected. We know that children so victimized may grow up with a thirst for vengeance which seeks an outlet in violence.

Morgentaler's argument, then, is that abortion has made Canada safer by depriving criminals of life. If he's willing to apply that logic to criminals who have yet to commit a crime, certainly he's willing to apply it to criminals who have already committed a crime?

Well, probably not, and for (at least) two reasons. First, Morgentaler would argue that the benefit of abortion is its prevention of crime, not criminals, and that once a crime is committed there's no advantage to killing the criminal. Recidivism might undermine that argument.

Second, and more importantly, Morgentaler would deny the comparison outright on the ground that a criminal has already come to enjoy life, and so is being deprived of life, while a fetus with a heightened statistical likelihood of becoming a criminal has not yet enjoyed life, and so is simply being prevented from coming into such enjoyment.

That gets right back to the fundamental abortion debate - when does life start? It seems rather hypocritical, however, to 'attach' negative potentialities (like, say, crime) to the fetus for the purpose of highlighting the 'positive' consequences of abortion while refusing to attach positive potentialities (like, say, breathing) to the fetus for the purpose of downplaying the 'negative' consequences.

Posted by David Mader at 11:12 PM | (2) | Back to Main

June 06, 2005

Order of the Day

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

Posted by David Mader at 10:52 AM | (0) | Back to Main


The Supreme Court has handed down it's opinion in Gonzales v. Raich (formerly Ashcroft v. Raich), the medical marijuana case challenging the scope of the federal government's power to regulate 'interstate commerce.' The six-three decision reverses a lower court decision and upholds federal power to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes under the interstate commerce power, even though the respondents did no business across state lines (or at all). Links to the opinions are available here. Quick thoughts:

  • Few people expected more than one vote for the federalist argument, with some suggesting that even Justice Thomas - the most ideologically and theoretically consistent justice on the court - would vote to uphold the federal power. It's therefore a pleasant surprise to see both Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice O'Connor - both federalists but both also pragmatists - choosing principle and ignoring politics to call for the restriction of federal power.

  • Similarly, Justice Scalia's vote - which greatly restricts U.S. v. Lopez - demonstrates that the operative word in the term 'social conservative' is not 'conservative' but social - as in -ist. The only difference between a leftist and a social conservative is that each wants to use coercive state power for different ends.

  • And speaking of ideological and theoretical consistency, interesting that Justice Kennedy would join Justice Stevens' opinion declaring that "perhaps even more important than these legal avenues is the democratic process, in which the voices of voters allied with these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress." You'll recall Justice Kennedy's strong commitment to that principle in his opinions in Lawrence v. Texas and Roper v. Simmons.
I'll try to read the whole opinion with concurrences and dissents today; more comments as they come.

UPDATE (10:58 CST): Here's what I wrote on November 27 last year:
My prediction is an 8-1 reversal of the Ninth Circuit's decision, with Justice Thomas, God bless his soul, arguing the Barnett brief and calling for the further reversal of the court's interstate commerce jurisprudence. Semi-realistic 'good case' scenario: a 6-3 decision with Rehnquist and O'Connor joining Thomas in calling for a limited interstate commerce clause. Worst-case scenario: a unanimous decision reversing the Ninth Circuit, with Thomas concurring to say that until the court is prepared to re-examine the interstate commerce clause, he feels bound to apply precedent notwithstanding his personal desire for reconsideration.
Semi-realistic indeed.

Posted by David Mader at 10:24 AM | (1) | Back to Main

June 05, 2005

Monkey Busines

Rebecca points me to this wonderful story from the New York Times about monkeys and economics. I mean, with those two topics, you can't really go wrong, especially with passages like this:

The capuchin is a New World monkey, brown and cute, the size of a scrawny year-old human baby plus a long tail. "The capuchin has a small brain, and it's pretty much focused on food and sex," says Keith Chen, a Yale economist who, along with Laurie Santos, a psychologist, is exploiting these natural desires -- well, the desire for food at least -- to teach the capuchins to buy grapes, apples and Jell-O. "You should really think of a capuchin as a bottomless stomach of want," Chen says. "You can feed them marshmallows all day, they'll throw up and then come back for more."
Now that's the good life. But my favorite passage from the article is this:
[E]conomics is increasingly being recognized as a science whose statistical tools can be put to work on nearly any aspect of modern life. That's because economics is in essence the study of incentives, and how people -- perhaps even monkeys -- respond to those incentives.
Indeed. You might even say that everything is economics.

Posted by David Mader at 10:48 PM | (1) | Back to Main

June 01, 2005

Deep Throat

In the comments to the previous post, Antifuse suggests that I comment on the revelation that 'Deep Throat,' the source of the information that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, has identified himself. I'm sure you've read about it; here's one version of the story.

Two brief thoughts: first, I've always been astounded by the amount of play Woodward and Bernstein have managed to make out of a story that was essentially handed to them. Think about it: these two men have become journalistic idols - and ideals - based on the fact that an insider handed them the information that formed the core of their story. Hard-hitting investigative journalism? Please. And maybe that explains why no-one has been able to 'replicate' the Watergate stories since, and why investigative journalism is such an embarrasment today: it never existed - at least, not in the way it's been remembered.

Second, anonymous leaking is, from the standpoint of principle, cowardly. Felt, or Deep Throat, knew when he divulged privileged information that it would have significant consequences. If he was committed to the realization of those consequences, he ought to have been prepared to stand by his revelations in public. That he would not suggests - quite strongly, to my mind - that his motivations were not principled and laudatory but petty.

This ties back in to my earlier discussions of the so-called 'journalists' privilege.' My argument is that the revelations we should be interested in seeing are the revelations that would prompt an individual in the proper position to act in the interest of principle by divulging them. In other words, the individual considering the divulsion (is that a word?) of privileged information should need to consider the consequences of the revelation, such that only those secrets that are worth losing a job - or even going to jail - over should be revealed. 'Journalists' privilege' busts the incentive process by shielding potential sources from the consequences of their actions, resulting in the revelation of information that 'ought,' under the more stringent public standard, to have remained secret.

Felt's case seems to throw off this trend, of course. Felt was not acting on principle, and had he not been assured of his continued anonymity he likely would not have come forward with the information he did. Had he not come forward, Nixon would not have resigned. The interesting question is whether Nixon would have engaged in the activity which was the ultimate catalyst of his resignation - allegedly lying about his knowledge of the organization of the plumbers' activities - had Felt's initial revelation not been made. I don't know enough about the Watergate narrative to comment intelligently on the subject, but it would be interesting to consider: to what degree did Nixon's ultimate resignation-worthy culpability result from the revelation by Felt of information regarding activity that, while scandalous, was not necessarily resignation-worthy? In other words, when we say that Felt/Deep Throat brought down Nixon, are we more right than we realize?

Posted by David Mader at 02:24 PM | (6) | Back to Main