It’s Called a Spine, not a Conscience

I’ve been watching the media reaction to Marcy’s “Putting a Face . . .” post. The first day, there were a lot of “Wow – read this” tweets going around on twitter, but now the more reflective pieces are coming out, like yesterday’s Margaret Sullivan piece in the Style section of the Washington Post entitled “A journalist’s conscience leads her to reveal her source to the FBI. Here’s why.” On the whole, it’s a pretty good piece, but Sullivan makes two absolutely critical errors.

First, right at the top, Sullivan doesn’t seem to understand that all sources are not created equal, though Marcy tries to correct her:

It’s pretty much an inviolable rule of journalism: Protect your sources.

Reporters have gone to jail to keep that covenant.

But Marcy Wheeler, who writes a well-regarded national security blog, not only revealed a source — she did so to the FBI, eventually becoming a witness in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of President Trump’s possible connections to Russia.

“On its face, I broke one of the cardinal rules of journalism, but what he was doing should cause a source to lose protection,” Wheeler told me in a lengthy phone interview.

At least Sullivan put Marcy’s “should” in italics, but for the rest of the piece she seems to have forgotten that it was there.

As I read it, Marcy’s post was not primarily about the investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election, though that is what has gotten a lot of the attention. What she was really talking about was the practice  — or should I say “malpractice”? — of journalism. Woven into the entire post, Marcy laid out how she wrestled with a very basic question: What do you do, as a journalist, when a confidential source lies to you?

Marcy’s answer begins by distinguishing between different kinds of sources. Some tell you the truth. Some tell you something that they think is true, but it turns out to be wrong. And then there are some that tell you lies. Granting all of these sources uncritical confidentiality to protect your reputation as a journalist is as dangerous as telling a woman abused by her spouse to “protect her marriage” by staying with the abuser.  “Protecting your sources” when those sources undermine your work and reputation ought not mean “protecting your abuser.” Protecting a source uncritically is just asking to get used and abused, over and over again. See “Russert, Tim.”

The second thing that Sullivan missed is that Marcy was also talking to sources — actual and potential. From the end of Sullivan’s piece, with emphasis added:

Wheeler told me she believed herself to be “uniquely informed” about something that mattered a great deal.

In their reporting, journalists talk to criminals all the time and don’t turn them in.

Reporters aren’t an arm of law enforcement.

They properly resist subpoenas and fight like hell not to share their notes or what they know because doing so would compromise their independence and their ability to do their work in the future.

Wheeler knows all that — and believes in it. But she still came forward, not because of a subpoena but because of a conscience.

As Drezner told me, “She would not do this on a whim.”

And as Wheeler put it, “I believe this is one of those cases where it’s important to hold a source accountable for his actions.”

Marcy said it right there, but Sullivan missed it. What Marcy wrestled with, and shared in her post, was how she chose to do just that. She went to the FBI as a way of holding an unreliable source accountable AND as a way to protect her honest sources from a broad, wide-ranging governmental search that could potentially come down the road.

At its core, “Putting a Face . . .” is a journalist telling the world of potential sources two things, that I might paraphrase like this:

First, I take my work seriously, and that means protecting folks who come to me with information. If you share something with me in confidence, something that helps me do my job to get important stories out, I will protect you with all I’ve got.

Second, don’t screw with me. It’s one thing to tell me something you thought was correct that later proves not to be true. That happens. But if I learn that you deliberately lied to me in an effort to harm others, and you attacked my workplace, I am going to burn your ass. Count on it.

If burning sources that lie to you is not a cardinal rule of journalism, it damn well ought to be. I suspect that Marcy’s honest sources will respect her more for this, and her dishonest ones will be very very nervous. Isn’t that something that all journalists ought to strive for?

Think about it like this: if Devin Nunes, Trey Gowdy, and the rest of the House GOP knew that the journalists to whom they spread lies, off the record, would be willing to burn them if the journalists discovered that they were being lied to and used, do you think they’d be so eager to lie?

Sullivan lauded Marcy for being a journalist with a conscience — which she is, but that’s not the point here. The point is that Marcy is a journalist with a spine.

photo h/t to bixentro, and used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.o Generic license.

90 replies
  1. Teddy says:

    Margaret Sullivan is playing her perfectly cromulent role: smoothing the edges off Marcy’s argument (while appearing to miss the important points entirely!) thereby making EW comprehensible to access-oriented journalists.  I mean, Andrea Mitchell or Natasha Bertrand, while reading Marcy’s “Putting A Face…” piece, must have thought to herself, “Reveal lawbreaking to state agencies when the lawbreakers are my sources too — and only I know about the lawbreaking? However could I survive in this Dismal Swamp? That sounds like a scoop — or at least leverage to extract a different scoop!”

    Journalism isn’t practiced in DC anymore: it’s performed.  Marcy’s example might puzzle them for a moment, but it certainly won’t shame anyone.  We can only hope her actions advanced Mueller’s investigation; House chairmen running from her indicate she won’t be able to help THIS Congress see any light….

    • bmaz says:

      I thought Ms. Sullivan was just fine. She went as far as she likely could, and in between the lines seemed to understand the situation and understand it quite well.

      That is okay. I kind of appreciated her willingness to stand in and make the take.

      • Peterr says:

        That was my initial thought, but I’ve cooled on that.

        I’ll give her credit for putting those two quotes in there about accountability, but she never picked up on that in her commentary. Just “she broke a big rule,” and quiet speculation that she must have had a good reason, but no engagement with Marcy’s main point: sources that lie and thought these lies seek to do harm do NOT deserve the sacred protection a journalist gives an honest source.

        When you said Sullivan “went as far as she likely could . . .” what was the barrier she ran up against?

        • bmaz says:

          Ahem, whether you like it or not, Marcy teed that up for Ms. Sullivan, and did so right here on this blog. And, frankly, I do not think it was harmful, but, indeed, was honest on both fronts. It was not unfair for Ms. Sullivan to take up a scunch of that which was served up. That is okay.

          • HanTran says:

            Agree, I found the Sullivan post quite reasonable and was glad to see the whole topic getting at least some MSM attention.

        • Teddy says:

          Sullivan’s piece, tepid though it was, will allow other MSM “media commentators” to beg off — “Oh, Margaret covered Marcy’s dustup… we’ve moved on to giving Dean Baquet a platform to discuss his avoidance of responsibility for all the Dershowitz pieces!”   Access journalists will look around and say to themselves, “Well, Margaret destroyed the Public Editor slot at NYT; I’m not sure we need to pay attention.”

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          For starters, the WaPo is not just Margaret Sullivan.  If she argued too forcefully that journalists are obligated to hold their sources to account when they lie and endanger others, her editors might well have not run the piece.

          • RWood says:

            That was my thought as well. I couldn’t decide if the piece was for her fellow journalist, or the WaPo readers. I think she landed somewhere in between, which is…fine.

            I would have liked to see the first draft, before the editor got a hold of it.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          I replied on an earlier piece that I thought one thing Sullivan should have done is bring up the case where the Post exposed a potential source on the Roy Moore story who turned out to be a James O’Keefe stooge.

          EW made a reasonable point in return that her going to the FBI was a different situation, and I agree. However, I think in terms of Sullivan’s piece it would have been worth bringing up because she led with the line “It’s pretty much an inviolable rule of journalism: Protect your sources.”

          I have nothing but praise for The Post on outing O’Keefe’s scam, and I wish Sullivan had added it to her piece to raise a bigger point: conservatives and other enemies of the media are playing dirty pool. They are lying. They want to crush the media as we know it, for all of its faults and foibles, and turn it into Fox News.

          There is a deep reluctance among the establishment media to acknowledge that the sharks are circling. For now, at least, they have weapons to fight back, and among them is a willingness to stick to the rules for sources. No retroactive placing statements off the record. No gratuitious use of quotes without attribution. Walk away from the used car salesmen pushing garbage deals on information.

          We’re seeing a situation as bad as the run up to the Iraq War, and the media has not learned any lessons. We already know that Haberman and Schmidt are the next Judy Millers, but I dread finding out who else will be there with them.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Protecting a source uncritically is just asking to get used and abused, over and over again. See “Russert, Tim.”

    Lovely.  Just lovely.  Thanks.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Even better:

      And as Wheeler put it, “I believe this is one of those cases where it’s important to hold a source accountable for his actions.”

      Marcy said it right there, but Sullivan missed it. What Marcy wrestled with, and shared in her post, was how she chose to do just that. She went to the FBI as a way of holding an unreliable source accountable AND as a way to protect her honest sources from a broad, wide-ranging governmental search that could potentially come down the road.

      Sullivan or her editors were trundling along slowly with a cartload of dynamite. Marcy’s behavior could give other journalists and their corporate patrons a bad name.

      Marcy’s predicament is hardly unique.  But her judgment and action seem rare.  She assessed and balanced difficult issues, and by all accounts made the right call for the right reasons.  The CJR – or UCLA’s Gary Segura – should hold a national seminar on her decision making process.

      Marcy’s path is not one much trodden by the MSM.  Indeed, it would blow a large hole below the waterline in access journalism.  We and they should start asking why.

      • Trip says:

        The MSM. You mean the people who have Dershowitz and Giuliani on all of the time, like MSNBC or CNN, or write about them as if they are neutral? The same people who present this administration as normal and not a threat to humanity? The people who kiss Sarah Sanders’ lying ass and promote being polite, while civil rights, the environment, consumer protection and social safety nets are being destroyed? Those people wanna say something?

  3. Nahant says:

    What Marcy did was to me an important part of reporting the NEWS truthfully. If you find that a source was deliberately feeding you lies and that those lies most likely caused lives then damn straight burn them. It was their deliberate actions that caused this and Marcy, who we all know loves her country, did what her conscience demanded she do and went to the FBI. Kudos to Marcy for trying to protect our country and us from this  traitorous bunch who currently hold the reins of power.

    • Teddy says:

      I did find it interesting that Devin Nunes called for a blue-ribbon commission to investigate all those who’ve provided the FBI with information about #TrumpRussia — but not until after Marcy told her tale.

  4. Trip says:

    “Attacked at my workplace” is also an important point being glossed over. Because someone considers themselves a “source” does not mean that they then have free reign to cause harm directly to the person they shared (true or false) information with, simply because that person is a journalist. Every human being has a right to self-protection in a situation like that. If the source becomes a perpetrator it seems insane to ‘protect’ that and them.

    What if a source issues threats? Should they be protected from exposure due to arbitrary ‘rules’ that don’t or didn’t account for disinformation distribution and actual malice aimed at journalists?

  5. Trip says:

    I know Peterr wrote this piece, but @Marcy, I hope you expose this mofo sooner, rather than later. More than being reported to the feds, they deserve an outing.

    • bmaz says:

      Don’t do that.

      This is not about voyeurism or gossip, and that is not how this does, or ever should, work

      • Trip says:

        I’m not talking about gossip bmaz. I’m talking about an actual piece that describes what this person has done. It apparently can’t happen now since it’s under investigation. But there is no reason why, down the road, a ratfucker shouldn’t exposed for their acts.

        When I mentioned sooner rather than later it was an expression of frustration that people are judging someone who tried to do the right thing, while this person goes on doing what they do under cover. I know she’s not going to write it up now. What I said is like stating, “Hurry-up, Mueller”. Which, I wish he would.

        • Peterr says:

          In Matthew Miller’s twitter feed where he linked to Marcy’s post, there was this exchange in the comments:

          Anne Owen@anneowenphd Jul 3

          Replying to @matthewamiller @emptywheel

          Wonderful and brave article. Do you think that at least some time in the future we’ll learn the person’s name?

          emptywheel@emptywheel Jul 3

          Replying to @anneowenphd @matthewamiller

          Near future, yes.

          Elsewhere (and I can’t find it right now), I seem to recall a similar exchange, with the added indication that the name would come out via the FBI, not Marcy.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          Absolutely must be patient.

          So much metadata being collected. The person is just a puppet in big scheme. Have to trap the puppetmasters.

          Yeah, it sucks, but if only puppets are incarcerated, the puppetmasters just find new puppets.

            • SpaceLifeForm says:

              All puppets. Trump is a puppet, he nominates another puppet to scotus. Puppets in senate confirm. Still all puppets.

              Yeah, it sucks.

  6. SteveB says:

    Thank you.

    Inevitably and quite properly the full facts have yet to be published and perhaps might never be.
    Thus the discussion of EW’s decision making process is necessarily abstracted from the full circumstances which confronted her, and as they emerged before her. Let me be plain, familiarity with her work is sufficient for me to have no doubt that those matters were approached with her customary rigour and integrity; but I am grateful to you for broadening my understanding of the ethical reasoning at issue.

    Ethical dilemmas frequently confronted me in my former profession, in respect of the roles of myself or colleagues and of other public servants or officials. I am not so familiar with the dilemmas which confront journalists. But it strikes me that any individual who seeks to abuse a professional by manipulation, or seeks to corrupt a professional’s work product by such means, then they have jeopardised their claims to confidentiality of and within that professional relationship: and the consequences which flow to that individual will depend on the circumstances – if the purpose is the furtherance of criminal enterprise, then any reasonable expectation of confìdentiality tends to zero. Clearly such broad statements require nuancing to take account of whistleblowing, overbroad criminalisation in authortarian contexts etc etc.

    Clients lying to me was a daily occurrence, clients seeking to use me to further some ulterior criminal end was far from unknown, but those who used me as a conduit for the presentation of forged documents got burned.

  7. curveball says:

    I don’t believe Marcy did anything wrong. I am a journalist, though recently retired after four decades of writing for newspapers and magazines at a fairly high level. Bmaz once blogged here on a piece I wrote. I did not go to J school. I’m old school and came to it in my late 20s, and always went with my gut. If a source lied to me and did so for malicious reason, any consideration of confidentiality fell away immediately. The kind of editors and reporters I looked to as role models and mentors simply knew what was right and what wasn’t in any given situation. No need to dig through and extrapolate from any published rules for journalists. Here, Marcy was being played. And if the source was doing so to cause harm to others who were acting honestly, Marcy is doubly right. As I noted in an earlier comment, Oliver North was outed by Newsweek in 1987 as its source when he started alleging that members of Congress had been leaking the info that he, North, was leaking. He played reporters to help protect himself within the law of political thermodynamics — if the heat’s on someone else, it’s not on you.  I’m still surprised that anyone might have thought Newsweek’s action was untoward.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      “He played reporters to help protect himself within the law of political thermodynamics — if the heat’s on someone else, it’s not on you.”

      I believe this is *exactly* what is going on with the person who shall not be named.

  8. Drew says:

    As a priest & theological educator, it is quite common to have questions regarding conundrums about confidentiality and “the seal of the confessional” on ordination exams. That seal is taken very seriously, and usually the rule is to err on the side of keeping confidences beyond whatever line would normally be drawn with someone. With experience and training, one learns not to over promise in this and put oneself (and others) in impossible situations.

    Yet it is never without moral (or legal) risk in the real world. Manipulators come in, in bad faith, and try to hobble important vectors of accountability. It’s important to make decisions that look at the whole problem and what is at stake overall. I suspect that Marcy might have made a much different decision if the manipulator were manipulating about more trivial matters and/or had less power to effectively do damage to people and institutions down the road. In other words, one rolls their eyes and stops talking to such folk.

    But here, it was a difficult decision that had to be made. Our world is filled with conventional types (like “access journalists”) who will quickly make or imply judgements about “hard and fast rules” and their observance. The real world is complex, and requires both depth of reflection and mercy.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      “… if the manipulator were manipulating about more trivial matters and/or had less power to effectively do damage to people and institutions down the road.”

      It may have appeared to be mundane with long ago convo, but then Marcy started to be suspicious. This is how an op works. Slowly build up trust, because some stuff fits. So one can come to believe they are a trustable ‘source’. But over time, there are tells. Eventually, one comes to question why they believe this other person. And the big mistake, by far, is to doubt your own thinking.

      Some people never spot other peoples tells.

      But Marcy pays attention. Like a Hawk.

      Marcy did not doubt her own thinking.. She trusted her instinct, and realized that things were fucked up in Dodge.

    • Rugger9 says:

      The confessional is a sacramental obligation and is also recognized legally.  Marcy’s a reporter  and does not have the ecclesiastical obligation that you would.  Fundamentally objective bad behavior is grounds to burn them (like murder, continued grifting of the helpless, etc.).

  9. Buford says:

    hmm…these ethical dilemmas are being forced upon a great many folks in these trying trump times…I wrestled with a very important dilemma within my workplace…I was told to falsify a federal register by my supervisor…when I went to HR with this, I was called into the office and fired…It involved falsifying a safety inspection at an underground coal mine…I refused, I reported it, and I payed the penalty…so there is that consideration…

    • 707 says:

      Except if they fired you there is a larger penalty to the company. By blowing the whistle you then become protected under Whistle Blower Protection Act. They have a site dedicated to it.

    • Rugger9 says:

      I’ve run across it as well.  The supervisor can sign just as well as you, and the next time you can suggest it to them.  What these dirtballs are trying to do is to pin you with the consequences, so since they are able to sign off over your objections, make them do it if they feel there is nothing to see there.  HR exists to cover up managerial sins and de facto policies and really aren’t trustworthy in my book.  I’ve only known 3-4 good HR reps in my 25+ year civilian career.

  10. dakine01 says:

    Spines & consciences are both lacking from most of the access “journalists” in good standing with the Beltway Villagers. Thanks for this Peterr.

  11. Trip says:

    As an aside, OT: I’m not watching the season finale of who the idiot picks for Justice in this terrifyingly surreal-ality show. I hope everyone avoids this BS tonight.

    • Rayne says:

      Agreed. Trump changed timing to 9:00 pm this evening to elevate his announcement to campaign-level outreach. I wonder if Boris Johnson’s resignation also factored into timing; with a prime time announcement he breaks past the Johnson news across the political punditry while reaching red state audience.

      Can only imagine the monkey horde of bots to be released after the announcement.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Well, PMQs are posted on Youtube on Wednesdays, Corbyn (Labour) and Blackburn (SNP) ought to be very entertaining.

        I’ll see if this dooms Brexit, but it seems May’s government is in deep doo-doo (h/t GHWB) and I do not see Brexit surviving if the ToryDUP coalition falls. One also wonders whether Article 50 can be rescinded, and also whether Kaiser Quisling has focused more thoughtful attention in the UK Parliament to the need to stick together with the rest of Europe if KQ continues to be a Russian asset.

  12. Tango Foxtrot says:


  13. Ben says:

    I just want to know when someone is gonna light this rocket.  Watergate took 26 months but today is roughly where hearings would be if this were 1974.

    • RWood says:

      That’s the million dollar question. Will Mueller stick with longstanding agency protocol and not issue any indictments, or subpoena Drump, in the month leading up to the November elections? Or will he wait until they are over?

      Not a lawyer, but I don’t believe there are any actual laws barring Justice employees from making major decisions until after an election.

      Slow and steady may win the race, and I know we all want Mueller to build an ironclad case, but I do wish he would make a move soon.  I’m quite tired of turning on my computer every morning and yelling “Damage Report!”

    • Rayne says:

      Watergate was a lot simpler and Congress wasn’t dominated by an utterly compromised and supine party. It’s really difficult to compare the two scandals now. Trump-Russia is more like Watergate meets Iran-Contra on a combination of steroids and meth — the timeline will not follow anything we’ve seen in the past.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        It certainly was simpler.  The GOP in Nixon’s era was no great shakes.  They withdrew support from Nixon reluctantly.  But they were head and shoulders ahead of the party that now goes by the same name.

        The range of possible felonies here, the number of people potentially caught up in them as perpetrators or accomplices, and how close they all are to the pinnacle of power is staggering.

        This is not an investigation into a few criminals.  It is an investigation of a criminal enterprise.  It ought also to be an investigation into the scores of politicians who have bet their careers and their country on hiding it.  Sadly, consequences for that may be limited to the ballot box.

        • RWood says:

          About a month ago I joked to someone that if Meuller started giving his report today he might be finished talking before the elections.

          Your comment makes me wonder if that’s not far from the truth.

        • Trip says:

          The untouchable oligarchs; in the US and internationally are never touched, never taken to task, are they?  Can you imagine the Kochs, Mercers et al being indicted? I can’t.

  14. Rugger9 says:

    Marcy’s point about the source’s activity is important here.  Anonymity is not a blank check and any clearly out-of-bounds conduct is perfectly valid grounds for burning a source (otherwise I would guess she risks becoming an accessory after the fact, but my apologies if the crack legal team has covered it already).  Marcy’s no fan of the so-called Deep State either, so for her to alert the authorities indicates this conduct was something that was worth the exposure.

  15. Anon says:

    I believe that there is a line of defense to the position that Sullivan may be coming from. While it is not codified in law there has been a longstanding expectation that journalists protect their sources and are, in turn protected from the legal consequences of say talking to a drug dealer to get “the truth” and then refusing to turn him or her in to the police.

    If this is a blanket exemption then it is a relatively bright line rule and it is easier for it to defend it in court and in society because it is a full-scale obligation much like doctor-patient confidentiality. Yes that has exemptions but it also has a clear boundary and an obligation for the doctor in absence of that specific exemption. But if it is now up to journalists to decide when this occurs then it becomes harder to explain why one person deserves protection and another does not. Or at least harder in court. That is why I suspect many journalists are uncomfortable at any outing even of those who would feed them lies.

    Note that I am not criticizing Marcy’s decision. Even with what I have read I do not feel that I know enough to claim that she made the wrong call. But I do see a legitimate reason to worry about any outing, even this one.

    • Rayne says:

      Branzburg v. Hayes

      I am resisting the urge to go completely off on you because the very example you swag in your first graf is an actual Supreme Court case which came to an entirely different conclusion. See this bit in particular from Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665: “decisions requiring that official action with adverse impact on First Amendment rights be justified by a public interest that is ‘compelling’ or ‘paramount'”

      Think carefully about source’s content that might be ‘compelling’ or ‘paramount’ to the public’s interest.

      Bring your A game next time because we have been here with Branzburg before (hello, Judy “Blew Lies” Miller).

      • Greenhouse says:

        Oh no you didn’t! You had go Sweet Judy. You just had to do it didn’t Rayne. How did you know I love it so :)

      • Anon says:

        I must say snide responses do you no credit. I was not aware of the precedent now I am. I had thought this was a conversation not a “game”. If you reread my general point you will see that I am not scoring points but noting one entirely valid angle of concern. A bright line rule is one that is easier to defend but also easier to exploit.

        • Rayne says:

          That response you interpreted as snide was an angry response to what appeared to be trolling on your part. Search for “Branzburg v. Hayes” across this site and you may find your concerns may already have been discussed over the years.

          • Anon says:

            I really don’t see how what I wrote could be interpreted as trolling. I was making a careful point about one interpretation of the privilege not anything else. Indeed as I noted I was not taking a position on the propriety of what Marcy has done as I don’t know enough about it. That is her call to make.

            As to your point on the case I will look at it that is definitely new information to me.

  16. greengiant says:

    When the ratfuckers are feeding out false information to end a journalist’s career in my book it is the journalist’s decision how to handle them. When the ratfuckers are conspiring to defraud the US it might be time to test the FBI and DOJ. Where did Sullivan go anywhere near either of those two realities? When team Trump puts out total bat shit lies what does the press do?
    So today revealed that HHS and ICE have reunited 2 of over 100 children under age of 5 before Tuesday’s court deadline. They say they will get another 52 done by tomorrow. “Not our children” say Trump people, evidently not the press’s children either in any way form or concern.

  17. thomasa says:

    Though I haven’t for nearly a decade now, for the previous two I covered goings on in the legislature, energy and environmental issues. There are a million agendas, everybody you talk to has one; even assignment editors.

    Several times I was used in very subtle ways to get bogus stories out. Sometimes it wasn’t so subtle. I was called on the carpet for refusing to cover stories that were complete BS. Somebody else covered them but a least when they turned out to be BS it wasn’t under my name. I outlasted several editors but it was hard, very hard.

    Compared to what Marcy’s involved in it was penny ante stuff; local and the stakes were low. I honestly can’t imagine how I would react to the forces that Marcy describes. Perhaps not so well. Perhaps I might have risen to the occasion. I’m glad I wasn’t put to that test.

    Amy Goodman came to town to speak to local journalists about the time Judith Miller was in jail. I asked her about safety of journalists in this country. Regarding being disappeared or offed she said, “That doesn’t happen here.” Well maybe not physically assassinated but ask the likes of Hirsch or Risen about attempts on their careers. One wonders what forces were brought to bear on Miller to get her to become the conduit she turned out to be; and then landed in jail when she refused to burn the source using her; all in the name of journalistic integrity so as not to set a precedent. She was vilified for allowing herself to be used. I’m glad it wasn’t me.

    Things have ratcheted up a notch or two since my conversation with Goodman. Not to slight Ms. Goodman but there are few journalists who are willing to stick their necks out to the degree Ms Wheeler has and few who have to deal with stakes as high. In the high stakes department, only Miller comes to mind.

    I’ll withhold any judgements until the dust settles on this one. It may be a long time but I’ll be patient.

    • Trip says:

      I beg to differ on Judith Miller. Her problem was her lack of integrity which, once the source was revealed as well as the interactions between the two, it became crystal clear that she was a stenographer in awe and reverence of her sources, rather than being an actual journalist. From direct sources inside the Times, Miller was not to be challenged. She was the darling of the publisher, even though other reporters found her to be wrong or questioned her narrative. To this day, she doesn’t own up to her actions in the course of history.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Literary sources notwithstanding, patience is not a virtue – except with young children and sometimes adults who act like them.

      Ms. Goodman and Glenn Greenwald are among those I would group with Marcy, each with different talents.

      Ms. Miller is not. She deserved her time behind bars for her willingness to allow a White House to use her like a pair of gardening gloves. Pity her top patrons at the Times were not with her, for allowing her to do it.

      • Thomasa says:

        I had not intended to defend Miller’s journalism though in rereading my post I can see how it might be read that way, having her in the same paragraph with the others and all. But she did her time in jail. To do otherwise would have endangered those to come later.  Thinking again about high stakes, I should add Greewald and Poitras, both of whom are no longer residents of the USA. But my comments are not to pick heros but to say one shouldn’t pass judgment unless one has stood in those shoes.

  18. Charles says:

    Good post, Peterr. The Fourth Estate is supposed to be not only independent of but fundamentally antagonistic to official power. The constant protection of obviously-lying official American sources by the media is shameful. And since the person who lied to Marcy may have represented a foreign government, even less consideration should be given to burning him.

  19. robert harding says:

    MSM reporter: “Ms. Sanders, will the president pardon the families that have been separated?  Who else does zero tolerance apply to?”

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Brett Kavanaugh.

    Standard establishment GOP pick.  Ivy League, conservative Catholic white male, upper middle class raised in urban Metro DC.

    “Labor” is what he does on the golf course.  It’s not who cleans his office or keeps hoi polloi away from his parking spot.  He’s rarely been in court and never represented anyone in court who wasn’t a well-heeled white guy.  Most of his work was a paper practice, politicking with Senators and White House staff.  He has spent twelve years on the country’s top appellate court, which is a bare minimum of experience.  He is attractive only because he is less extreme than other candidates.

    Mr. Kavanaugh’s academic success is a given with any serous contender for a seat on the Supreme Court.  His work experience is barely sufficient, whereas Ms. Barrett’s was deficient.  His academic pedigree is routine.  He is not from a public Ivy or a top southern or western school.

    He is not a woman or person of color.  He has never represented a plaintiff or an indicted criminal, a person in poverty or a social service.  He is not a former executive director of the ACLU or NAACP, EFF or EPIC.  Habitat, either for Humanity or as a description of an environment, is foreign to him.  His knowledge of the SPLC and the people they serve is nil.

    I suspect he has never been in a prison, a woman’s shelter, or an immigration service concentration camp.  Grapes and tomatoes are on his counter or in the fridge.  They are not what people pick for a meager living.  He probably thinks that Flint is the brand of water next to Fiji.  His sense of executive authority is just to the left of John Yoo’s, and his opinions about women and maternal and infant heath care would not put a hair out of place at an archbishop’s table.

    Fasten seat belts.  We’re in for a bumpy ride.

    • Trip says:

      Did you read that Kennedy made a deal to retire if Kavanaugh got his seat? Since when do Supreme Court Justices pick successors?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The threat from someone like Brett Kavanaugh taking a seat on the Supremes is not just to Roe v. Wade, to access to birth control, to maternal and infant health care, or even to health care itself.  His would be a fifth conservative vote on a nine-member panel.  It will change the tenor of government.

      It will affect the rules by which the three branches of government relate to each other.  The relations between the Feds and the states, between church and state, between the individual man, woman or child and the state.

      For Kavanaugh, Monopoly is a board game, not a system of economic power that threatens the political and social fabric.  He has probably never met a banker he didn’t like, or a regulator of mines, water, workplaces or securities that he did not.

      His view of federal power to regulate business is similar to someone who has dined on a basket of lemons: constipated.  His view on the reach of the criminal law to regulate the president’s crimes will almost certainly imperil the political and social fabric.

      Many would be wise to oppose his nomination.  Failing to succeed in that, they would be wise to plan ahead for the next nomination.  The eventual need to replace Thomas or Ginsburg will either re-balance the FedSoc’s arch-conservative grip on the Court and American life or cement it for another generation.

      These are not side issues of interest to an elite.  They involve bread and butter, life and limb issues affecting everyone.

      • Greenhouse says:

        That’s why it should be put to the people. I don’t buy that BS about presidents nominating with congressional approval SCJs as a justification to circumvent pandering to majority whims. So we leave it in the hands of a handful of corrupt officials to select that which is supposed to be a check on their power? Now that makes a buttload of sense!?!? As Frank Zappa so eloquently sang: “Ram it, ram it, ram it, ram it up the poopshoot” in regards to that reasoning.

  21. JR says:

    It’s simple: Tell people at the outset that their “source status” will be automatically revoked if it’s discovered that deliberate lies were told. It is assumed that “source” means truth teller because it’s assumed that a real journalist wants to report only the truth; otherwise it’s just “fake news”.

    Establish your own parameters to protect yourself, your work, and anyone else deserving protection!

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