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February 16, 2005

Reporters lose appeal over CIA leaks

From CBS:

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a ruling against two reporters who could go to jail for refusing to divulge their sources to investigators probing the leak of an undercover CIA officer's name to the media.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sided with prosecutors in their attempt to compel Time magazine's Matthew Cooper and The New York Times' Judith Miller to testify before a federal grand jury about their confidential sources.

"We agree with the District Court that there is no First Amendment privilege protecting the information sought," Judge David B. Sentelle said in the ruling, which was unanimous.

This is in regards to the story about the Robert Novak column that mentioned, what has been called common knowledge, that Valeri Plume worked for the CIA. It hasn't been established that she was actually a covert employee, but innuendoes were made that the Bush administration was the source of the leak, since Plume's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson was the sole source of “intelligence” regarding Iraq's nuclear deals with Nigeria -- later turning out to be unreliable “intelligence” and also wrote a newspaper opinion piece criticizing President Bush's claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger.

Disclosure of an undercover intelligence officer's identity can be a federal crime if prosecutors can show the leak was intentional and the person who released that information knew of the officer's secret status.

Cooper is a White House correspondent for Time who has reported on the Plame controversy. He agreed in August to provide limited testimony about a conversation he had with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, after Libby released Cooper from his promise of confidentiality.

Fitzgerald then issued a second, broader subpoena seeking the names of other sources.

Miller is facing jail for a story she never wrote. She had gathered material for an article about Plame, but ended up not doing a story.

Reporters need to have the trust of sources, so going to jail to protect their anonymity is considered an honor among journalists.

Posted by Jack Lewis at February 16, 2005 10:10 AM

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