Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - Ex-FBI No. 2 was 'Deep Throat' - Jun 1, 2005

And one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th Century is solved.

Other than for us history affectiados, there lies a number of more important points for us to consider about this episode.

1. No one is really above the law or the corrupting influence of power. That should always be a creedo for politically active citizens. Nixon was going to win, he need not have done what he did i.e breaking into the National Democratic Committee Headquarters. It should also serve as a reminder to those who would be sanguine about the lack of transparency and accountability at times (which I admit being a member of once in a while).

2. The necessity for political investigative journalism. The media (whether new, old, mainstream or fringe) are a part of what has been termed the 4th estate. It has, can and does act as a check and balance of the governing powers as a whole. This is a role that journalist are terribly suited to playing because of their networks and contacts, so to any professional journalist out there, thank you for keeping up the work if you're doing so and if you're not, I hope you can sleep easy with your conscience.

On the bright side, the non and fringe Mainstream Media (MSM) has been mroe and more active in this respect. The internet has made it alot easier for your average joe to actually get his hands on information and resources that were once the mainstay of the bigger MSM. So, when Bush was once castigated for not silencing a booing crowd who had been told of some ill that had befallen Kerry, some guy went out to search for an audio recording of the speech, played it through and discovered that this scene had not occured. And who could forget how Dan Rather was brought down by a couple of bloggers who had caught him out in his accusation of Bush supposed missing hours in the National Guard. Similarly, it's worth going to any anti-urban legend site to see debunking of certain accusations levered at Hilliary Clinton or Al Gore.

Furthermore, what were once the joke of MSM (albeit highly profitable ones), the so-called tabloit papers (so named because of their easy to read smaller format) are pulling their weight when it comes to investigative journalism. The National Enquirer was the first paper to break the news of the political intern being missing.

Whether this will translate locally is much harder to say. but I must add that the New Paper had broke a couple of very interesting human interest stories (mostly involving illegal immigrants) but non so far about any political scandals (except for the Steve Chia nude pictures thing).

3. The necessity for anonymous sources. Newsweek took a huge beating with the entire Koran fiasco retraction, which has been somewhat mitigated by the fact that the US military is now investigating such incidences in Guantanamo Bay facility. But as I previously mentioned in my post, Newsweek ought to have known that it was an explosive story and they really ought to have known that the Bush administration would not have taken it lying down. As such, anonymous or not, they really needed to have sufficient proof to withstand Executive pressure.

While I do not think it is possible to overstate the importance of an anonymous source/leak. Nevertheless, I think that papers need to be very cautious in the manner in which they employ it ever since a number of high profile fiascos (Rathergate, Newsweek, Bush not silencing booing crowd) have led to a massive credibility gap. So like Bush, whatever they have said is going to be discounted to some extent.

Deep Throat merely served as an aid(e) to the reporters Woodward and Bernstein. He served mainly to confirm information, fill in missing gaps and point them in the right direction. So in a manner of speaking, while he was terribly important, he was not the sole anonymous source like in the Newsweek thing (although one wonders whether the two pentagon officials they show the report to counted as sources).

But on the other hand, it would be worth noting the importance of such sources particular in war crime trials. Most of the evidence would have no hope of ever reaching the court room if not for anonymity (this of course throws up a huge legal question of whether these should be admissible considering that the accused is not allowed to face his accusers. But my sympathy is very limited when it comes to butchers like Chemical Ali and Milosevic). And apparently, the situation has gotten bad enough for US officials to warrant a report in the ST today.

4. The necessity of protecting whistle-blowers. Important side issue, journalist's privillege allows them to protect their sources which is good. Anonymity is a very important aspect for these sources as careers and even lives have been lost as a result of these names being leaked (see the entire uproar when Dr. Blake took his life after he was outed as the source saying that there was no basis for the 45min preparatory time to launch a WMD claim. Or the CIA couple whose names were leaked to the papers). This anonymity also encourages such people to come forward and it takes massive courage to basically spill the beans on your bosses.

By way of analogy, look at White Collar Crime and all the legislative devices used to encourage and protect whistle-blowers in particular legislation designed to prevent any form of unwonted discrimination and haressment of the whistle-blower.



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