Time ordered to turn over Plame drafts
The judge found "a slight alteration between the several drafts of the articles" Cooper wrote about his conversations with Libby and the reporter's first-person account of his testimony before a federal grand jury.
"This slight alteration between the drafts will permit the defendant to impeach Cooper, regardless of the substance of his trial testimony, because his trial testimony cannot be consistent with both versions," Walton wrote.
A person familiar with Cooper's drafts described the inconsistencies as "trivial." The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Walton has warned the case's participants against talking to reporters.
This seems like a minor development, but it's always tricky when newspapers are ordered to turn over unpublished material. Reporters are able to get stories because sources trust their discretion and judgement. Reporters often get information "on background", for instance -- meaning not for publication or attribution -- to help them make sense of the information they can publish. If such private information is too easily seizable by a court, it could cause sources to clam up, seriously hampering the work that reporters do.
If it comes down to it, a defendant's right to a fair trial outweighs a newspaper's right to keep its files confidential. But care should be taken that any demand for media files is narrow, and that the information sought is necessary, clearly relevant and unobtainable any other way.
The judge appears to have done that in this case -- unless the discrepancies truly are trivial. In that case the dubious benefit to Libby does not justify seizing the files.
media, Libby, Plame, politics, midtopia