The lawyers said any conversations Cheney and the officials had about Plame with one another or with reporters were part of their normal duties because they were discussing foreign policy and engaging in an appropriate "policy dispute." Cheney's attorney went further, arguing that Cheney is legally akin to the president because of his unique government role and has absolute immunity from any lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates asked: "So you're arguing there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- these officials could have said to reporters that would have been beyond the scope of their employment," whether the statements were true or false?
"That's true, Your Honor. Mr. Wilson was criticizing government policy," said Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil division. "These officials were responding to that criticism."
You know, I could see the logic in an argument that found immunity of conversations between Cheney and his staff. I think it should be a qualified immunity, but one with a high hurdle.
But to provide immunity for the discussions of Cheney or his staff to REPORTERS, non-governmental officials is a stunningly broad and frightening overreach of traditional immunities. What's the next step, Cheney can order up audits or imprisonment? It also recognizes, the so-called Fourth Estate as being the "Washington Press Corps" as an extension of the government. While David Broder and a few others, might like that definition, I'm afraid that the other 300 Million of us should be more than just a tad uncomfortable with it.
If a governmental officer has that kind of immunity for responding to criticism, then think just how far they could go in tramping down political opposition?
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