Internet bloggers will be allowed to cover the criminal trial of former White House staffer Lewis “Scooter” Libby alongside reporters from traditional media outlets, a court spokesman said on Thursday.
Members of a bloggers’ association will share at least two seats during the high-profile trial in which Libby’s former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, is expected to testify, said Sheldon Snook, a spokesman for the U.S. District Court in Washington.
The arrangement is believed to be a first for a high-profile court case, although trade shows and political conventions have issued media passes to bloggers in the past several years.
“Bloggers are part of the media landscape and if we were to ignore bloggers, we would be ignoring reality,” Snook said.
Blogging access will be restricted to members of the Media Blogging Association, a trade group that provides legal advice and promotes increased access for its 1,000 members.
While members adhere to standards of fairness and accuracy, they will be free to include political perspectives in their coverage, association President Robert Cox said.
“Our members are not going in there to file wire service copy or be pool reporters — they’re going to express opinions,” Cox said.
He said the association has about 12 bloggers set to cover the trial — some with a liberal perspective and some with a conservative one.
Bloggers likely will file reports throughout the day from an overflow room that will be set up with wireless Internet service, although like other media outlets they will be prohibited from transmitting video or audio of the trial.
Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff, is charged with obstruction of justice and lying to FBI agents as they sought to determine who leaked the name of a CIA employee whose husband had criticized the Bush administration’s use of intelligence in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Richard Armitage, the former No. 2 official at the State Department, has since said that he was the first to inadvertently mention the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame to reporters.
Knowingly disclosing the identity of a covert CIA agent is against the law but neither Armitage nor anyone else has been charged with leaking Plame’s identity to the media in 2003.
The rise of Internet blogs, or Web logs, has led to debates on whether bloggers are entitled to the same access and protection as traditional print, radio and television journalists — as well as the same standards.
The Plame case has been subject to especially intense, and often speculative, coverage in media outlets and online blogs.
Blogger Jason Leopold, writing for the left-leaning blog truthout.org, reported last May that White House top political adviser Karl Rove had been indicted as part of the investigation and planned to resign.
Rove’s lawyer said no indictment had been served, and several weeks later said Rove was cleared by Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.
Leopold is not a member of the Media Bloggers Association, Cox said.
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