Thursday, October 20, 2005

Judith Miller's Testimony to Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Judith Miller testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.  Her testimony found here was to "urge [Congress] to enact the Free Flow of Information Act so that other journalists will not be forced, as [she] was, to go to jail to protect their sources."  The protection of reporters sources is clearly important to the public obtaining information that might not be forthcoming by the government.  (see post here)

But in one passage of her testimony she discusses the BALCO case.  She says "[t]he leakers in the Balco case in San Francisco violated grand jury secrecy rules or laws, but their information about steroid use in professional baseball gave Congress the facts and impetus to start hearings and make needed reforms."

Is she suggesting that leaks from the grand jury are good and sometimes necessary?  Wouldn't Congress have eventually received this information without this leak?  It is one thing to allow reporter's to protect sources, and for reporters to bring out information that might not have been disclosed absent the confidentiality being provided to the source. But this seems different than saying it is OK for someone to violate the grand jury rules as long as they tell the information to a news reporter.   

Grand jury leaks should not be tolerated.  This is especially true when the leak is to a newspaper reporter who then may be disclosing it to the world.  The importance of grand jury secrecy is undermined when individuals covered by the grand jury rules will be able to tell reporters anything and be protected by this process. 

In finding a fair balance between confidentially of news sources and grand jury secrecy, it is important to factor in both values and not just protecting the sources.


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