COOPER AND MILLER REDUX….Should reporters Matt Cooper and Judith Miller go to jail for refusing to reveal their sources in the Valerie Plame case? A reader wants to know where I stand:

Your blog is my single favorite site on the Internet, which is why I hope you’ll clarify whether you actually agree with the idiotic statement posted by Charles Peters. If you don’t, his statement shouldn’t be allowed to soil your blog. If you do, I’m sure you’ll be able to explain why in a much more articulate and thoughtful way.

How can I resist an appeal like that? My answer is pretty simple:

  • No, I don’t agree with Charlie (or, apparently, the entire rest of the Monthly staff). I’ve never met either Matt Cooper or Judith Miller, but I don’t think their personal likability should be an issue one way or the other in this case.

  • Despite that, I agree 100% with Garance Franke-Ruta and Armando that liberal blog readers ought to change their tune on this issue posthaste. You either support the right of reporters to shield their sources or you don’t, and your opinion shouldn’t vary based on whether (a) you dislike the reporters in question or (b) you’d like the information they’re hiding to become public because you think it would be embarrassing to George Bush.

As it happens, I favor the passage of a federal shield law for reporters that would protect their right to conceal their sources. Today, we don’t have one (although most states do). If Miller and Cooper are sent to jail, it will have a chilling effect on the ability of reporters to aggressively cover government malfeasance, and in the end I think that’s way more important than the details of this particular case. God knows we don’t need the press to become even more timid than they already are on this score.

Senators Christopher Dodd and Richard Lugar make a good case for a federal shield law here. I highly recommend reading it before laughing too hard over the prospect of Judith Miller in leg irons.

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