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Fitzgerald Speaks

Because of previous commitments, I was unfortunately unable to catch prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's long awaited moment on the public stage today. In case you want it, here's a transcript of his remarks courtesy of the New York Times.

And not that it means much, but here's one pretty positive review of his performance.

These excerpts on the subject of forcing Judy Miller to testify, included in an Editor & Publisher piece, will not convince a lot of First Amendment advocates that Fitzgerald is on the side of the angels. But at least he didn't sound like he enjoyed putting journalists in the hoosegow:
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Asked about the role played by New York Times reporter Judith Miller in the probe, Fitzgerald said he wished "Ms. Miller did not spend one second in jail. ... No one wanted to have a dispute with the New York Times or anyone else. I would have wished nothing better if no one would have gone to jail. I was not looking for a First Amendment showdown."

But he added: "The only way you can do an investigation like this is to talk to reporters. ... I had to make judgments and do my job and not walk away if I think a crime of obstruction was committed." He said, "We thought long and hard before we subpoenaed any reporters." In fact, there was a long list of reporters they might have talked to, and did not.

Before proceeding against Miller and the ones he did target, he made sure that one judge after another concurred: "I think what we did was borne out by how judges ruled.

"We could not have resolved this case if we forgot about reporters ... that would have been reckless.

"I do not think that reporters should be subpoenaed anything close to routinely, it must be an extraodinary case. But if a reporter is an eyewitness to a crime and you walk away -- you are being reckless." He said that in some cases you can learn from reporters that a crime was NOT committed.

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Still, what's very interesting now is how the focal point of the journalism story has changed here. The subject being chewed over ad infinitum in media circles is no longer the issue of confidential sources or whether we need a federal Shield Law. Instead, it's the behavior of the New York Times itself in letting Miller live up to her self-annointed title of "Miss Run Amok."

Here's what publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. had to say on that basic subject today.

The Times has thus far not been able to contain the fallout from this episode, and while it's a good bet that Miller has seen her last Times byline, it's impossible to rule out other casualties. Sulzberger's right about one thing. "The story is not over."
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