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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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And another thing …

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Muzzling the watchdogs. It’s difficult to see how the public is served in the case of Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of the New York Times. The pair may soon be sent to jail for concealing sources in a case where nobody else may be charged with a crime.

This mess started when columnist Robert Novak revealed the name of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame. Her husband is a former ambassador who challenged the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq tried to purchase yellow-cake uranium from Niger. An anonymous Bush administration official leaked the identity of Plame in an apparent act of revenge.

A special prosecutor was named because the leak might have been illegal. The prosecutor has said his investigation was essentially wrapped up in October, but the only people being pursued now are Cooper and Miller. Cooper wrote about the Plame issue a few days after Novak’s column appeared. Miller never wrote about it.

The implications of jailing the pair are profound for a free press trying to perform its watchdog role and for potential whistleblowers. Congress needs to pass a federal shield law to clarify such matters. If reporters can’t guarantee confidentiality, much of what the government does will remain shrouded in secrecy.

War of the words. Glamour guy Tom Cruise has the pop culture world in a dither. As a top-drawing movie star, after all, he knows the importance of sticking to the script, and the script right now calls for him to jump from one interview to another, hyping his new movie, “War of the Worlds.”

What’s he doing instead, apart from acting like a ga-ga adolescent over his latest love interest? Well, he’s talking about his controversial religion, Scientology, and what it has to say about relying on psychotropic drugs to manage emotional disorders. He’s openly criticizing fellow celeb Brooke Shields, who recommends them, and engaging television interviewer Matt Lauer in a heated debate about his beliefs.

This, say a legion of angry critics, is unthinkable. Which goes to the heart of the issue. Cruise, whether you agree with him or not, was engaged in thinking. They counted on him for superficiality and he gave them substance instead. It’s so unstarlike.

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