Another example of the liberal media bias in the press: The cacaphony calling for Robert Novak to reveal his source in PlameGate Here's one scoop we never thought we'd live to hear: "Journalists Call on Newsman to Disclose Confidential Sources." To understand this sudden pang of press conscience, it helps to know that the journalist in question is columnist Robert Novak. At issue is his July 14 column explaining why the Bush Administration would entrust an investigation into the alleged Iraqi attempt to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger to Joe Wilson -- a high-ranking National Security Council member from the Clinton years. The answer Mr. Novak reported receiving from Administration sources was that Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked at the CIA and had put her husband forward for the job. We have since been treated to much hand-wringing from a punditry ostensibly concerned with the damage Mr. Novak has inflicted on national security by "outing" a CIA agent. Never mind that Mr. Novak's column was mostly ignored until months after it had run, or that the chances of establishing a crime are slim: The language of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act was specifically written to protect legitimate journalism. Under its terms Mr. Novak cannot be prosecuted, though he could be held in contempt if a court asks him to disclose his sources and he refuses. As for the leaker, the law requires proof that the leak was done with the intent to unveil a covert intelligence officer by someone who knew the CIA was taking active measures to keep the agent's covert status concealed. But this is all beside the point, because those shouting loudest already have what they really want: a special prosecutor to score political points and tie the Administration up as long as possible. What strikes us as truly extraordinary, however, is the eagerness with which much of the press corps has been cheering this on. Instead of lauding Mr. Novak for protecting his sources, many of his colleagues in the Fourth Estate seem eager to throw him over the side. Call it "the Novak exception." By that we mean the rule that comes into play when a conservative journalist is involved. No critic could sum this up better than Geneva Overholser did in her New York Times op-ed earlier this month calling for Mr. Novak to betray his sources. "Never burn a source," writes Ms. Overholser. "It's a cardinal rule of journalism: do not disclose the identity of someone who gives you information in confidence. As a staunch believer in this rule for decades, I have surprised myself lately by concluding that journalists' proud absolutism on this issue -- particularly in a case involving the syndicated columnist Robert Novak -- is neither as wise nor as ethical as it has seemed." Now, some of us aren't as surprised by Ms. Overholser as she professes herself to be. A former "ombudsman" at the Washington Post, she is the same media ethicist who recently resigned from the board of the National Press Foundation because it had bestowed an award on Fox News anchor Brit Hume. But most of the rest of the media establishment has been either silent or has joined Ms. Overholser's new enthusiasm for Big Brother. Typical was the comment in a recent issue of Editor & Publisher -- the establishment's trade paper -- by Mike Leonard, president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Mr. Leonard loftily declared that "if I were party to a crime I'd fess up and not hide behind journalistic privilege." This is the same Mr. Leonard who uses his own column in the Bloomington Herald-Times to attack the Patriot Act for its "heavy-handed assaults on free speech." The double media standard here is breathtaking, not to mention depressing for those who believe in a free press. The same Beltway media who thrive on leaks don't seem to mind now that a special prosecutor has been unleashed on one of their fellows and his sources. The media deny that there is a "liberal bias," but it is hard to conclude anything else when they are willing to ignore their own free-press principles in order to take sides in what is at root a political battle about the Iraq war. Remember, the Novak piece was written days after, and in direct response to, a July 6 New York Times op-ed by Mr. Wilson, in which he made the accusation that intelligence had been "twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." This focus explains why Mr. Novak doesn't even mention Ms. Plame until the sixth paragraph of his story, as a relatively minor detail. Mr. Novak also gave the CIA the chance to talk him out of publishing Ms. Plame's name. He says he was told it might cause her some troubles traveling, but that he never would have included it if the CIA had told him it would put her life in danger or jeopardize her career. It still isn't clear that Ms. Plame was really "under cover" at all. Nor does the subsequent behavior of the Wilsons do much to alleviate suspicions that their outrage owes more to politics than national security. Mr. Wilson has campaigned for John Kerry. That is his right as an American citizen. But we'd have thought it might cause non-partisan journalists to treat his claims to being a humble whistle-blower with a dollop of skepticism. Ask yourself this: Have you ever seen a man who enjoyed the alleged destruction of his wife's career as much as Joe Wilson? He has speculated on which movie star should play his wife and called for Karl Rove to be "frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs." As for Ms. Plame, far from heading back underground, she happily posed for the January issue of Vanity Fair. Maybe with enough depositions and grand jury questioning, our newest special prosecutor will unearth whoever told Mr. Novak about Ms. Plame. But what are we to think about journalists who invoke "ethics" to disguise what is really a partisan disagreement with a newsman doing his job?