Freedom of the press got a moral boost Monday from Alexandria citizens assembled at Market Square to show their support for New York Times reporter Judith Miller now jailed in Alexandria for her refusal to reveal her source in the covert CIA operative outing story.
Organizer of the rally, City Councilman Andrew Macdonald noted in his announcement of the event, "It's a sad day when the government jails a journalist not for what she's written but simply for what she knows. What a double standard to imprison Judith Miller... because she refuses to reveal a source while Karl Rove, President Bush's advisor, remains free despite admitting he helped confirm the identity of a CIA agent."
Miller was sentenced to four months in the Alexandria Detention Center after she refused to testify before a grand jury about her source in the story now embroiling White House Assistant Chief of Staff Karl Rove. Miller did not write about the case but was doing investigative work on the story.
"Her incarceration is a clear and deep violation of the First Amendment. We are rallying here today to recognize her sacrifice and to let her know that there are citizens and elected officials both in and near the Nation's Capital who support a free press," Macdonald stated.
He cited Thomas Jefferson who placed great value on a free press in a democratic society. "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter," Jefferson stated in a letter to Colonel Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787.
IN ADDITION TO citizens carrying placards supporting Miller and the First Amendment, Macdonald was joined by other members of City government and U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8) in castigating not only the legal system for taking this action but also the Bush Administration for its support of "repressive tactics" and weakening of constitutional freedoms.
"Truth, trust and accountability should be the defining hallmark of American government. When elected officials don't speak the truth and don't uphold the public trust they should be held accountable," Moran said.
"Judith Miller is sitting in the Alexandria jail because she was seeking the truth as to who revealed a CIA operative's identity. An act of treason was committed in revealing that identity," he said.
"We are now finding out that the person she was trying to protect is the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President and possibly the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President. Rove sits by and lets her go to jail," Moran said.
He also attacked the Bush Administration for "deliberately deceiving the American people" about the Iraq war. "It has vast implications to send people to war on deceit," he told the audience.
Noting Congress' recent extension of The Patriot Act, Moran said, "There are 16 things in The Patriot Act that are in opposition to the Constitution. Those things are far more akin to a fascist government than to the American government. People have to ban together and say this is our government and we want it back."
That was echoed by Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille who said, "The Patriot Act is a direct violation of the First Amendment. We have to support Judith Miller."
Referring to his recent trip to France and Great Britain with the City of Alexandria's Employees Choir, Euille noted, "The people in Europe and Great Britain love Americans. It's our government they're against. We are trying to spread democracy and we don't have it here."
BOTH MORAN AND EUILLE called for a national shield law to protect journalists from being forced to reveal their sources. Thirty one states have such laws but there is no federal shield law.
"This is an issue I can not be silent about. Without a free press we do not have a free country," Alexandria Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper said. "I salute Judith Miller and her professionalism."
Pepper also noted that the only person to be jailed thus far in the entire investigation is a woman. "Not one man is in jail," she stated.
"Slowly but surely they (Bush Administration) are taking away our civil liberties. They operate under one set of rules while we have to operate under another," said Councilwoman Joyce Woodson.
"They create fear to manipulate the public. This is not rocket science. It's totalitarianism 101. We are living under a regime and if we don't wake up we will all pay," she said.
Recently nominated candidate for the 45th District of the Virginia House of Delegate David Englin stated, "It's a sad day for America when a reporter is jailed for a story she didn't even write. Miller's example reminds us we have a choice, standby or fight. I for one choose to fight."
Bringing personal insight to the rally was Lisa Krupicka, wife of Councilman Rob Krupicka and a freelance journalist for the New York Times who specializes in technology and education under the byline Lisa Guernsey. She was full time for that newspaper prior to becoming a mother.
"It is very important for a reporter to be able to protect their sources -- both for the reporter and their sources. There are times when people will call and say "I have to tell you this because I think it's wrong but please don't print my name. Journalists need to be protected from being forced to reveal sources," she said.
Macdonald closed the hour long rally by urging those present to fight for a free press. "We believe Ms. Miller should be released immediately. Congress needs to pass a law that will ensure that all journalists, conservative and liberal, are free to report the truth without fear of going to jail," he said.