Preface: I believe that the right thing to do is situational. In other words, cut and dry moral rules are not complex enough to decide what is the correct thing to do in some situations. The application of such moral rules can lead to the right decision in some cases and in other cases it could lead to the wrong one.
"Free Matt Cooper!And Walter Pincus! And maybe even Bob Novak"
I don't understand how the first amendment protects journalist from not giving up their sources.
So could a journalist report on a crime that someone told them about (which for arguments sake lets say that the source was involved in the crime) and named names of the people who committed the crimes.
Lets say that crime was a crime where children had died and lots of them?
How would you feel about a journalist not giving up their source because it is their first amendment right?
I know that I am sinking to the level of ad hominem, but I did it to make a point.
A journalist protecting their source (ie. Someone who commits a crime) could be protecting people who have hurt other's right to pursue freedom, happiness, and the American way. Which is stronger, the god given rights we have, or some amendment man wrote? I think I know which one the founders would choose.
Fitzgerald's Javertian pursuit of these three reporters for "information" is clearly unjust. Remember, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act was explicitly designed to avoid the establishment of an Official Secrets Act. It was meant to protect journalists such as Novak who occasionally name names. Instead, Fitzgerald is using the law to create the procedural equivalent of an Official Secrets Act. This is bullying, pure and simple.
These journalist are protecting someone who outed a CIA agent, they are protecting a person who could have possibly committed a crime. This entire article reeks of a journalists thinking they are better than everyone else, as if the journalists abide by their own set of rules. This habit of journalist protecting their sources seems like it was something that was drilled into them at school. It does not sound like the question was ever posed, "When should I protect my sources and when should I turn them over to the police?".
I can see how a journalists ability to get sources would decline once it was realized that the journalist would turn the sources over. If a journalist is protecting their sources for that reason, they are protecting their sources to protect their career, instead of abiding by some abstract moral code.
If I wrote a story on this blog, which dealt or helped facilitate a crime, I would go to jail once they caught me. I could not hide behind a fake name forever. The isp would had me over to just make a point, blogspot would not step in and save me.
Morally I don't see how journalist can unquestionably justify protecting their sources in all situations, though hiding behind the first amendment seems to let some of them sleep at night.