Sunday, November 18, 2007

9/11 coverage and obstruction of justice

Is it possible that media professionals could face obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges for failing to do their civic duty by passing along information they had on suspicious activity, whether federal or otherwise, regarding the 9/11 attacks?

The First Amendment covers a lot of ground, including the right not to publish information in one's possession. If a news organization or media professional publishes something that could affect a criminal inquiry, the duty to inform law enforcement agencies has probably been fulfilled (unless one chooses a form of publication that cannot reasonably be expected to be seen by the police).

But, if a reporter, editor, publisher or other media person vetoes such a story, then there may be an obligation to report this material directly to some law enforcement agency.

So, reporters and others who are sitting on such material might wish to consider putting together a report with supporting materials and making copies available to investigative authorities. In fact, why not send copies to a number of places: The FBI, the Justice Department, New York City Police, Port Authority Police, Pennsylvania State Police, Washington, D.C., police and the criminal investigation divisions of military services?

Also, we need a responsible historian or two to set up a 9/11 documents archive that makes available online all declassified 9/11 documents. The archive would also be a repository for video, photos, tapes and authenticated reproductions of physical evidence. Reporters would make their notes and amplified reports available.

The archive should get no federal funding and make every effort to stay free of political control.

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