By Brad Friedman on 2/20/2005, 1:47pm PT  

It's all a bit too much "shop talk" even for me. But, in truth, the discussion of blogs, bloggers and blogging affects all of us here in one important way or another.

Either because one of us happens to be the author of this blog, a commenter on this blog (yes, you too could be held responsible one day for what you say, whether we like it or not!) or because we're just all citizens of this country and/or this world, and --- contrary to what happens in Vegas --- what happens in America doesn't necessarily stay in America. Unfortunately enough for those of you not here in America.

So there's a Blog versus MSM or MSM versus Blog or, more ominiously, The Law versus The Blogger and The MSM firestorm a-brewin', and you folks should well be paying attention to it. Inside baseball or otherwise.

Adam L. Penenberg, in this week's Wired News, shares a reminder, and a legal opinion or two, that, as the headline says, avers there is "No Protection for Bloggers".

In the bargain, he also reminds us that there is precious little protection for MSM reporters as well in this day and age. And as much as we might like to see Judith Miller of The NY Times spanked hard and/or possibly sent down for a week or two of "rehab" at Gitmo for her transgressions at the “Gray Lady” in the year prior to the War on Iraq in which she personally played no small part in helping us get there in the first place, we find it more than a bit appalling that she may be facing 18 months in jail for not disclosing a source for a story she never even reported.

In the meantime, Robert Novak, who did report the story on Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, being a covert CIA operative and has admitted to having at least "two senior administration officials" as sources for it, has somehow gotten off scot-free.

We guess it's not actually what you know, but who you know. Or so it would seem in the case of undercover-CIA-operative-outer Novak, of whom Poppy George HW's quote from 1999 would seem to more than aptly apply: "I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors." (Source: 4/26/99, Speech at "Dedication Ceremony for the George Bush Center for Intelligence", full speech at the CIA website...ed note: I do not believe I will make it through another four years of this kind of irony without my head actually exploding)

But back to Penenberg's piece, whose final grafs inspired this article. Here they are:

Earlier this week, a three-judge federal court of appeals panel upheld a ruling in which Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine were sentenced to up to 18 months in jail for refusing to disclose their sources to a grand jury investigating a leak that disclosed the identity of a CIA agent.

Most ominously for the blogosphere, Judge David B. Sentelle, in addressing reporters' privilege, asked if it protected "the proprietor of a web log: the stereotypical 'blogger' sitting in his pajamas at his personal computer posting on the world wide web his best product to inform whoever happens to browse his way? If so, then would it not be possible for a government official wishing to engage in the sort of unlawful leaking under investigation in the present controversy to call a trusted friend or a political ally, advise him to set up a web log (which I understand takes about three minutes) and then leak to him under a promise of confidentiality the information which the law forbids the official to disclose?"

The judge seems concerned that bloggers (in pajamas, no less) might be used by their sources.

Isn't this what Robert Novak, the first to out CIA operative Valerie Plame in a July 2003 syndicated column, has been accused of?

Yes, it is. (ed. Note: And yes, our head may indeed explode if this intolerably cruel irony keeps up.)

Inside baseball or not, the tide is turning. And quickly. The barbarian bloggers are at the gate, and the MSM, along with The Law is going to spend the next few months and years figuring out what to do about it.

One of Judge Sentelle's poor pajama'd bloggers may someday find themselves as the unfortunate test case in determining just who is a "journalist" and who isn't, while even the "journalists" find out they may have no more protection in this majesty's kingdom.

So, is it too early to turn our earlier shameless plea for donations into a necessary collection for the official BRAD BLOG Legal Defense Fund?

Let us hope so.