James Risen is not a large corporation, just an investigative reporter for the New York Times. So when it came time to protect his 1st Amendment rights as a journalist, the Supreme Court did exactly what you'd expect -- it turned tail and ran away. USA Today's Rem Rieder, the hardest working man in the media criticism business (by way of Philly), has a scathing report:
So we remain with a landscape in which reporters such as James Risen of The New York Times, whose case the court declined to take up, will confront situations in which they have to choose between betraying a confidential source and going to jail.
All the more reason why it's critical that Congress stop dithering and pass the desperately needed federal shield law for journalists. More on that later.
This a big deal not just for journalists but for the general public, as well. There are cases in which whistle-blowers need anonymity to protect their lives or their livelihoods when they reveal information important to the public welfare — about corruption, unsafe conditions, environmental risks and on and on. It's unconscionable for reporters to face time in the slammer for doing their jobs and honoring their pledges.
He's right. Obama's record on press freedom -- from investigating journalists and throwing whistleblowers in jail to his lack of transparency and abuse of the Freedom of Information Act -- has been abysmal. Nothing can erase those lousy 5-and-a-half years, but the president using a little of his political capital for that shield law would undo a little of the damage.