Just what in the wide world of sports is special federal prosecutor Scott Fitzgerald up to?
According to the Associated Press, our man Fitz isn't satisfied with getting the e-mails passed between Time Magazine reporter Matthew Cooper and his editors pertaining to the Judith Plame story. He's now insisting that Cooper testify before the grand jury. What does Fitzgerald hope to gain by that?
The AP story states that, "The case is among the most serious legal clashes between the media and the government since the Supreme Court in 1971 refused to stop the Times and The Washington Post from publishing a classified history of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers." But something tells me that the Plame affair and the Pentagon Papers affair are two very different stories. In the Pentagon Papers affair, a government prosecutor tried to keep the media from reporting what it knew to be the truth. In the Plame affair, a prosecutor seems bent on forcing the media to tell what it knows.
My sense is that Fitzgerald is looking for something far bigger than nailing Rove on a perjury charge. It think he's trying to build a comprehensive conspiracy case around the intelligence cook-off that led us to war in Iraq. If that's what Fitzgerald is up to, I'm behind him, but I have reservations about the long-term effects his tactics may produce.
If he successfully makes his case, it will be on the testimony of sources who--the underhanded nature of their motives aside--gave information to the press on the premise of confidentiality. Under oath before the grand jury, Matthew Cooper will be more or less obliged to tell everything he knows or thinks he knows about what went on behind closed doors during the lead up to the Iraq invasion. That, most likely, will end Cooper's career as an investigative journalist, and it may do permanent damage to investigative journalism in general. Will anyone talk to a reporter again knowing their name might come up at a grand jury hearing?
I sincerely hope Fitzgerald is carefully considering all these things as he pursues this case, and that his ultimate goal justifies the costs and risks he is taking with regard to the First Amendment.
Fitzgerald earned a reputation in Illinois as a relentless, "untouchable" prosecutor. So he's not likely to let go of this case any time soon.
We should have an interesting summer.