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WHEN JUSTICE BLINKS

Independent investigations can lose sight of their original targets. I should know—I was embroiled in one

IN THE MOVIES, or on TV, it usually happens like this: A process server posing as a clumsy bike messenger slaps someone with a subpoena as he or she walks out of a deli. But it didn’t happen that way in 2004, when I found myself in the middle of another special counsel investigation that threatened a Republican White House. Instead, I got a call from the FBI asking if I’d be willing to answer a few questions about an article I had co-authored for Time magazine, where I was a White House correspondent. I demurred, and after some back and forth with the counsel for the magazine’s parent company, Time Inc., the feds simply faxed their subpoena to the lawyers. How boring.

What followed, however, wasn’t boring. For over a year, I fought in court alongside Time Inc. to avoid revealing my discussions with sources in what came to be known as the CIA leak case. It’s called that because the identity of a former covert intelligence operative, Valerie Plame, had been disclosed—a possible felony and something that reportedly damaged U.S. security and put lives in danger. I didn’t out Plame; that happened before I started writing about the case. But an administration official, Karl Rove, had disclosed her identity to me. Our appeals took more than a year and went all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear our argument that I shouldn’t have to testify against a source because of a privilege of confidentiality that is akin to that of physicians and clergy. During one appeals proceeding, I scribbled in my notebook: “Je suis fucked.” I wound up telling my story to a grand jury.

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THE DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU NOW Now, startups are applying artificial intelligence (AI), floods of data and automation in ways that promise to dramatically drive down the costs of health care while increasing effectiveness. If this profound trend plays out, within five to ten years, Congress won’t have to fight about the exploding costs of Medicaid and insurance. Instead, it might battle over what to do with a massive windfall. Today’s debate over the repeal of Obamacare would come to seem as backward as a discussion about the merits of leeching.
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