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A lose-lose proposition

There's something about the Scooter Libby case that bothers me.

It's not the verdict, rendered yesterday. The jury found there was a solid case to convict the former Vice Presidential aide on four-of-five perjury counts.

That's about as close to a slam dunk as you can get for the prosecution.

So, it's not the judicial system or the jury that troubles me. They did their job.

But I think it was the fact that members of the media-some pretty high profile ones, mind you-were called to testify in the case.

Apparently, there were some with misplaced, or sloppy notes. Others couldn't remember conversations.

Yes, we all have memory lapses, and reporters-at least this one-have notoriously bad handwriting.

And, yes, it is troubling that an official as high in the presidential chain of command as Libby apparently covered for someone who leaked classified information about a government agent.

But it's also troubling to see who the information was leaked to, or who was used to apparently get back at a naysayer of the administration's call for going to war in Iraq.

Who was used?

Journalists.

In the rush to be first, reporters gobbled up the inside info someone in the Bush administration apparently dished, and happily shared with the world the identity of a secret operative for this country.

Apparently, it never occurred to any of the reporters that they were political pawns. If it did, it didn't seem matter to them.

It's the kind of thing I think most journalists try to keep an eye on in reporting.

If someone throws out a name, or an allegation, we check our sources.

Understand, sources on the record are helpful-even vital-in pulling together information to benefit the public interest.

But none of us in this business want to be the pawn of an anonymous citizen who has an unsubstantiated gripe with his neighbor, or be used for disinformation purposes by a "government official" at any level.

The jury did its job in delivering the Scooter Libby verdict. It was a win for the justice system, an example that no one is above the law.

But it was also a lose-lose proposition.

Journalism lost in that our industry played into the hands of a federal employee, perhaps even a White House official.

We, the people, also lose any time our government "leaks" information in an attempt to discredit those with differing opinions. Opinions protected by the first amendment of our constitution.

But I'm an optimist.

Maybe the next person tempted to lie under oath, as Libby did, will think twice following this verdict.

And, maybe, the next reporter out there ready to dish dirt on someone will explore sources, and motives, instead of playing the pawn.

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