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Fitzgerald v. Miller, Round 2


Naturally, Reporters Without Borders will demote the U.S. even further in its annual press freedom index, but I don’t see anything wrong with subpoenaing the phone records of reporters who tipped off two Islamic charities to the fact that the FBI was about to raid them:

The grand jury, in Chicago, is looking into who told the reporters, Judith Miller and Philip Shenon, about actions the government was planning to take in December 2001 against two Islamic charities in Illinois and Texas. The disclosures to the reporters, the government lawyers wrote on Friday, may have amounted to obstruction of justice.

In August, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled, 2 to 1, in favor of [U.S. Attorney Patrick] Fitzgerald, saying that the reporters were not entitled to shield their sources in the unusual circumstances of the case. The government contended that the reporters had tipped off the charities to the impending actions against them. The Times said the reporters had engaged only in routine newsgathering.

Routine newsgathering? These reporters alerted two suspected financiers of terrorism to an FBI raid. If it’s true that, as NYT lawyer Floyd Abrams argues, “This case is the latest of a number of skirmishes in an ongoing and far from concluded conflict about the public’s right to information,” shouldn’t the press be picking its battles more carefully?


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