Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Fed Court Rules Against Miller, Cooper - Floyd Protests

(thanks Gawker)

To the Staff:

The United States Court of Appeals today decided that a New York Times reporter, Judy Miller, and a Time magazine reporter, Matthew Cooper, must disclose confidential sources to a grand jury investigating the leak of the name of a woman who works for the CIA or go to jail for up to 18 months.

As you know, Judy (and we believe Matthew, as well) will not do this. We support her fully in this decision and will now pursue all avenues of appeal, including asking the United States Supreme Court to review the case. The consequences of this landmark case are almost impossible t overestimate. When we consider the many complex issues that we face at home and abroad, it is hard to imagine a more inopportune moment to restrain the free flow of information. Given all that is at stake, we all need to know much more — not a lot less — about the major issues of the day.

While confidential sources and unattributed quotes are not our favorite part of the journalistic process, they are an important factor in how Washington and most of the rest of the world operate. Unless we are content with newspapers that are just reprints of press releases, official pronouncements and news conference transcripts, we must accept such sources as a way of life. The Times goes very far in trying to tell our readers why someone won’t speak on the record. But when individuals do speak to us confidentially, they do so knowing we will protect their identity.

If the findings of this decision are upheld, they will also severely restrict all citizens’ ability to make fully informed electoral decisions. When you thoughtfully consider the innumerable ramifications of this decision, it becomes absolutely apparent that they are a direct threat to our newspaper, our Company, our profession and our democratic form of government. This is why we must individually and collectively urge our friends, family, colleagues and neighbors to write their members of Congress and support a federal shield law recently introduced by Senator Richard Lugar and Congressmen Mike Pence and Rick Boucher.

We can take some solace and inspiration from the fact that we’ve been in this position before — in fact, quite a few times. The first for The Times was in 1857, when we published an editorial criticizing lobbying activity involving congressmen who were paid to support a piece of legislation. A congressional committee was established to probe the charges. Instead of pursuing our story, it sought out our reporter — a Mr. Simonton — and asked him to reveal his sources. Mr. Simonton, bless his heart, refused, was held in contempt by the House of Representatives and served 19 days. Mr. Simonton was finally released and the House members in question resigned when the full story became public.

In 1978 a New York Times reporter, Myron Farber, was ordered to jail, also for doing his job and refusing to give up confidential information. He served 40 days in a New Jersey prison cell. In response to this injustice, the New Jersey Legislature strengthened its shield law, which recognizes and serves to protect a journalist’s need to protect sources and information.

As we did in 1857, in 1978 and many times in between, we will stay true to our values. We have confidence that as the United States Supreme Court and the American public review the full details of the Judy Miller and Matthew Cooper case, the reporters? courageous decision to protect their confidential sources will be fully vindicated.


Well, here we go.....
Tuesday, February 15, 2005 · Last updated 10:17 a.m. PT

Appeals court upholds ruling in CIA leak


WASHINGTON -- 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.

Floyd Abrams, the lawyer for both reporters, said he would ask the full appeals court to reverse Tuesday's ruling. "Today's decision strikes a heavy blow against the public's right to be informed about its government," Abrams said in a statement.

In October, Judge Thomas F. Hogan held the reporters in contempt, rejecting their argument that the First Amendment shielded them from revealing their sources. Both reporters face up to 18 months in jail if they continue to refuse to cooperate.

The special prosecutor in the case, Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, is investigating whether a crime was committed when someone leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Her name was published in a 2003 column by Robert Novak, who cited two senior Bush administration officials as his sources.

The column appeared after Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, wrote a newspaper opinion piece criticizing President Bush's claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger. The CIA had asked Wilson to check out the uranium claim. Wilson has said he believes his wife's name was leaked as retaliation for his critical comments.

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.

Prosecutors have interviewed President Bush, Cheney, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and other current or former administration officials in the investigation. Journalists from NBC and The Washington Post also have been subpoenaed.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan declined Tuesday to comment on the appeals court ruling. "We'll leave it to the courts to address that matter," McClellan said.

"The president has made it clear that he wants to get to the bottom of this matter," he said, adding that Bush also has urged anyone with information on the case to come forward.


On the Net:

U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: http://www.cadc.uscourts.govinternetinternet.nsf


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