Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Right to Investigate

As reported by many bloggers, the NYT sought to look at the adoption records of the young children of SCOTUS nominee Judge Roberts. This story has been covered very well by many. However, it did raise a few questions & concerns for me. In response, the NYT issued a statement, which included these lines:
..."Our reporters made initial inquiries about the adoptions, as they did about many other aspects of his background. They did so with great care, understanding the sensitivity of the issue," said Times spokesman Toby Usnik. "We have not pursued the issue after the initial inquiries, which detected nothing irregular about the adoptions."

If they saw making "initial inquiries about the adoptions" as a routine matter, then I'd like to know what other aspects of this man's life & that of his family they made "initial inquiries about". I recall the uproar in the NYT over provisions in the Patriot Act that allow the FBI & Dept of Homeland Security to investigate the library records of those suspected of being dangerous criminals. I fail to understand how a newspaper that considers the violation of privacy abhorrent in the case of a terrorist investigation, justifies a clear & egregious violation of the rights of an innocent man & his family.

As I am not a lawyer, I'd like to know: is it legal to investigate a person's children & how far is a newspaper allowed to go in their investigation of a person?

Also, as one of Michelle Malkin's readers point out in their letters to her, this bottom feeding can be harmful to the children.
It is up to the parents and the parents alone to decide what they tell the kids about their adoption. What if the paper published information the Roberts didn't want to have out there yet, what if the kids at some future date found this information in the public domain, rather than from their parents in a loving, supportive context? What in the bleep gives the NYT the right to usurp one of most important duties of an adoptive parent, that of sharing with the children where they come from?

There is certainly controversy over the extent to which the NYT attempted to dig in their investigation. However, by their own admission, they did attempt to violate the privacy of a man who has not been charged with any crime.

Another disturbing aspect of a statement they sent a reader who expressed concern over the issue was:
Like all major news organizations, we report extensively on the life and career of any nominee or candidate for high public office. Most of the inquiries we make do not report in published articles at all; we would simply be remiss if we did not ask the questions.

I can't help but be curiouse as to what kinds of inquiries the NYT makes about "the life & career of any nominee or candidate for high public office". What is their policy, where do they draw the line & what do they do with the information they do not report?

If & when the government decides to investigate a person, there is an established procedure for such things: there are guidelines, which state what things are permissible & what things are not. They are required to keep records of the investigation, who did what, how & when, as well as archive the information & make the information available to the public, baring extreme instances, even then, it is possible to sue to get access to these records, as the ACLU knows well. The government must also maintain records of who had access to these records. As far as I am aware, please correct me if I am wrong, a privately owned newspaper is not under such constraints & obligations.

It's nice to be worried about Big Brother government looking into your life, but what about the ability of media conglomorates to dig through people's lives. I am by no means suggesting that media organizations not scrutinize candidates for government office, but rather that they divulge the extent & the nature of their investigations as well as what they do with the information that they chose not to publish. I realize also that journalists have special protections that allow them to shield their sources, however, would it be a violation of the Constitution if they were to be required to say, we will investigate X’s educational & professional records from the age of 18 & professional & personal contacts, & the information we discovered will be archived in such & such a manner, at such & such a place, & maintain records of who accessed these records. With the current policy, had Druge not reported this story, we may not have known that the NYT pried into the Roberts family's adoption records.

The NYT states that this type of intrusive investigation is routine for anyone seeking higher office, but what is their policy regarding other people in the news? If I were to be the author of a published book, it could be argued that I am a public figure, therefore, does that give the NYT an open pass to investigate every nook & cranny of my life & that of my family? Should they decide to do a story on me, are there any limits to the extent to which they can violate my privacy? Will I know what aspects of my life they have investigated & how far they have dug? Is it unreasonable to want to know who knows what?

To be fair, the NYT is not empowered to charge anyone with a crime or take any legal action against him or her & therefore does not have same sort of power over an individual's life that the FBI or Dept of Homeland Security does. However, the information that they publish is a matter of public record & can have unjustifiable adverse effects on a person's life. Also, were this information they gather to find its way into unscrupulous hands, there is the possibility of that information being abused. It is not my intention to sound alarmist or paranoid, but the ability to investigate & gather personal information, without the consent of an individual, does concern me, even when it is not the government.

Hey NY Girl:

You are right, many blogs have been discussing this NY Times issue, but many have missed the point.

Remember, the NY Times and like-minded liberals look at adoption as a negative: abortion, after all, is a much better option.

I think we are naive to think the NY Times didn't think this story would get out: they wanted it out.

The story paints Roberts as an "adoption first" candidate not an "abortion first" candidate: this makes the liberals in our country view him as a Catholic radical, after all, abortion should come first in the eyes of the NY Times.
You are right NY Girl. Can you imagine the shrieks of rage that would emanate from the NY Times if FOX News went snooping around the Clintons' medical records in an effort to prove that Chelsea Clinton was adopted?

It proves what many have said all along – the abortion lobby is the meanest and dirtiest in Washington. Considering the competition (MoveOn.org, NAACP, etc.) that is quite an accomplishment.
Nice point. Nice comments as well. NYT is so hypocritical, nothing they do in the interest of the left surprises me anymore.
Excellent post. I suggested elsewhere that a fund be established to examine the reporters and editors that choose to 'investigate' candidates for public office with more than a bit of journalistic zeal.

I suspect the editors, reporters and publishers lead more than fascinating lives.
The liberals at the NYT must be desperate if this is the best they can do. Just when you thought the NYT couldn't sink lower.

It really shows the lack of journalistic integrity, and complete absence of political argument for the Times to resort to this.

I never thought the left would become this stupid. Keep it up guys.
"As I am not a lawyer, I'd like to know: is it legal to investigate a person's children & how far is a newspaper allowed to go in their investigation of a person?"

I understand your contention on this, but it is not illegal and they are allowed to go pretty far. They are just not allowed to break into your house or pay off someone to get confidential records (such as medical records).

In actuality, this is nothing different than FOX news or any other media source does. Nor, is it at all illegal. If you don't think that there were journalists poking their nose into ever aspect of the Clinton's lives, you would be quite wrong. It is actually quite legal to even go through someone's garbage after they have put it out on the curb. You should see some of the things that the NY Post pulls.

As for the adverse affects on someone's lives, as has been determined in court case after court case, public officials have even a less of a right to privacy as do other citizens. But if you think that is bad, you would be horrified to know what business do in snooping into your life. If you are going to be mad at anyone, you should be mad at the US and State governments that make our personal information so accessible. We have some of the weakest privacy laws in western culture mainly due to big business lobbying to be allowed to collect massive amounts of data on us. That has been a big contention between the EU and US for quite some time now.
I am outraged by this. I am neither pro nor con Roberts, but this is just ridiculous and stupid. Makes me sick.
these people just like to stir trouble have they nothing better to do ... and I am sure this news is from the non supporters ..joiks
Hmmm... Another good question for the NYT is did they do this with Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she was nominated, or with Janet Reno or any other Clinton nominee?

We all know what they WANT. As (I believe) a writer on Michelle Malkin's blog wrote, they'd love nothing better than to find the birth mother(s) in some squalid hovel in the poorest part of Central America, and then describe how this rich, white American swooped in and basically 'bought' their children, and how tearful they are that they'll (sniff) never get to see their little ones again.
Hi & welome Sigmund, Carl & Alfred & Dingo.

Justin, you make an interesting point, I never thought of that. Thanks.

Dingo, I agree that our privacy laws are monsterous. I hope that Fox didn't dig into Chelsea's life, & if they did, I condemn that. I am personally not too fond of the ACLU, AI & many other organizations, but not even in at the height of my fury would I think to attack the children of their followers. If not involved in terrorist activities, even Osama's kids should be off limits.

I agree with all of you, this is sick. I must say the idea of Sigmund, Carl & Alfred sounds tempting. Anyone want to hop on board :-)
Ok, I am pro-choice and liberal, but I think this is ridiculous. First, I thinks it is complete crap that they want to unearth the "secrets" of his adopted children. Why on earth would it matter who they are or where they came from, their adoptive parents love them - this can only cause pain for the family.

Secondly, it's so STUPID to think that his choice to adopt has anything to do with his stance on abortion. Maybe they adopted because he and his wife couldn't have kids, maybe they wanted to help out underprivilaged kids. that in no way indicates how he feels about abortion.
Well, as much as you may dislike the ACLU, they often take on these privacy issues. They were even backing Rush Limbaugh in his attempts to keep his medical records private.
Excellent, love it! » » »
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