Congress is setting itself up for another fall by attempting to tap the telephone secrets of reporters who broke the story of Anita Hill's charges of sexual harassment against Judge Clarence Thomas.
Reporters Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio and Timothy M. Phelps of Newsday, who first publicized Ms. Hill's charges, have both told Senate investigators they won't name their sources. To do so, they claim, would undercut their ability to gather news from informants who do not wish their identity made public. Maintaining the confidentiality of news sources is essential to carrying out their job for most working journalists.
But now, having failed to persuade the journalists to cooperate in his investigation, the special prosecutor appointed to look into the disclosures has subpoenaed telephone company records of the reporters' home and business calls in an effort to identify everyone who talked to them around the time Ms. Hill's charges became known. The reporters rightly claim the tactic smacks of police state intimidation and represents a threat to the First Amendment guarantee of a free press.