A chill is spreading through the media and a cold shadow is falling over the right of the people to know.

In July 2003, The New York Times ran an op-ed piece by former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, charging Bush with lying about intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

It so happens that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA agent. Eight days later, right-wing columnist Robert Novak outed Plame in one of his columns. It was widely seen as retaliation by Bush for Wilson’s truth-telling on the lies that led to war.

Exposing a CIA agent is a crime. The White House ordered an investigation into the identity of two high-ranking administration officials who reportedly leaked the information to Novak.

But strangely – or not? — Novak himself is not being investigated. Instead, Time magazine and New York Times reporters were targeted for not revealing their sources for stories looking further into this nasty case, and now Times reporter Judith Miller has been jailed.

The temperature just dropped in the pressroom.

Clearly following White House marching orders, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said the reporters needed to spend time in jail to think about “whether the interests of journalism at large, and even more broadly, the proper conduct of government, are truly served” by their silence regarding their sources.

Serving the proper conduct of the government? Isn’t that the mission of a free and independent press? As many have pointed out, would Nixon’s crimes have been exposed if we didn’t have “Deep Throat?” The shadows of lies and deception are falling across our current administration. Is that why it is so anxious to prevent use of unnamed sources? Is it afraid of facing a similar fate?

Anonymous whistleblowers and journalists who tell their stories help shed light on corrupt and illegal acts, even at the highest levels, that undermine democracy. Like cockroaches, this administration is running from that light.

Flag-waving and terror talk can’t hide the Bush administration’s fear of an informed public. This is part of the stakes in the battle over the Supreme Court. Freedom of the press is under all-out attack. It’s up to us to defend it.

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