Friday, March 23, 2007

Balkinization: Can Bush Assert Executive Privilege in the U.S. Attorney Controversy?

From Jack Balkin:

"Of course, that is one reason why Congress should push hard for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate criminal wrongdoing instead of relying solely on Congressional oversight hearings. It is important to recognize that even if the President otherwise had authority to fire the US Attorneys does not mean that the firings could not violate criminal laws like conspiracy or obstruction of justice if there was evidence that the firings were designed to forestall or to interfere with prosecutions."

Comment: This story is not about journalism in the Internet era per se, but it's relevant nonetheless. This is the first place I have seen a clear explanation about whether Bush can assert executive privilege in Gonzalezgate (that's not to say this information hasn't been published in an MSM article, but I haven't seen it, and I've been looking.)

That I had to learn this information from a blog is somewhat interesting, but it becomes much more interesting when you consider the blogger's identity. Balkin is currently Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment and the directory of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. He's one of those people reporters would be likely to call to get the answer to the question posed in the headline. Isn't it better to get the explanation directly from the expert? What service does a reporter provide if he/she just passes along a quote from Balkin in a news story?

I'm not saying reporters can't provide an important service; I'm saying that they often fill their articles with quotes from experts like Balkin. Under those circumstances, I'd rather get the explanation from the source himself.

Update: My bad -- evidently I missed this NY Times piece from March 19.