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New tork times reporter jailed for concealing leak { July 7 2005 }

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New York Times reporter is jailed
Defies court order in leak of agent's name

By Andrew Zajac
Washington Bureau

July 7, 2005

WASHINGTON -- A federal judge on Wednesday ordered New York Times reporter Judith Miller jailed for refusing to identify a confidential source to a grand jury investigating how an undercover intelligence agent's identity was divulged.

A second reporter, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, avoided imprisonment at the last minute when he agreed to testify about his source in a case in which reporters' ability to protect their confidential news sources collided with a criminal investigation and White House political intrigue. Cooper told U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan that his source had released him from a promise of confidentiality shortly before the court hearing.

Last Friday, Time turned over Cooper's notes and e-mails sought by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, so the identity of the source presumably was already known to investigators.

Miller told Hogan that "a promise of confidentiality once made must be respected, or the journalist will lose all credibility and the public will, in the end, suffer. ... I cannot break my word just to stay out of jail."

But Hogan said Miller was putting herself above the law and ordered her jailed until she agreed to testify, or until the end of October, when the term of the federal grand jury investigating the case is due to expire. "There is still a realistic possibility that confinement might cause her to testify," the judge said.

Miller hugged her lawyers, Robert Bennett and Floyd Abrams, and was escorted from the courtroom by U.S. marshals and driven to a detention center in nearby Alexandria, Va.

Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, has said for months that his investigation has concluded except for the testimony of Miller and Cooper. On Wednesday, he told the court that with Miller's refusal to testify, "we are having this whole thing derailed by one person."

Outside court, New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said the jailing of Miller is "likely to serve future cover-ups of information that happen in the recesses of government and other powerful institutions."

The case has caused concern among journalists because it involves the forced disclosure of sources, something media organizations tend to fiercely resist because it can scare off whistle-blowers and other conduits of information who might talk to reporters only with the promise of confidentiality.

But for all the furor within the news media, Fitzgerald's inquiry, which began in December 2003, seems focused less on reporters' prerogatives than on the conduct of high officials in the White House.

Fitzgerald wants Miller and Cooper to testify about conversations they had with White House officials in July 2003, around the time syndicated columnist Robert Novak cited two Bush administration sources in revealing that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent.

Cooper wrote a story mentioning Plame after Novak's column was published. Miller gathered information but never wrote a story.

It is a felony to deliberately disclose the identity of an undercover operative, and Plame's husband, retired diplomat Joseph Wilson IV, charged the administration did so in retaliation for his criticism of U.S. policy regarding Iraq.

Novak has declined to comment about whether he cooperated with Fitzgerald, but he told CNN he would "reveal all" after the investigation is concluded.

It would be virtually inconceivable, however, for Fitzgerald to have conducted his inquiry without talking to Novak.

In his investigation, Fitzgerald has interviewed numerous senior White House officials, including President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney as well as Bush's top political aide, Karl Rove, and former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, now the attorney general.

Last Friday, Robert Luskin, an attorney for Rove, acknowledged that Rove is mentioned as a source in Cooper's notes. Luskin said Rove spoke to Cooper in July 2003 but that he did not divulge Plame's identity. It is not known whether Rove was the only source mentioned.

Rove testified before the grand jury last October and Luskin said Fitzgerald has assured him that Rove is not a target of the investigation.

The jailing of Miller is likely to increase calls for a federal "shield law" spelling out circumstances in which reporters can protect sources. Illinois and 30 other states plus the District of Columbia have such laws that apply to cases in state courts, but there is no set of standards that applies in federal courts.

In the Plame case, Hogan has held Miller and Cooper in civil contempt of court since October, rejecting their argument that the 1st Amendment shielded them from revealing their sources. Last week the Supreme Court declined to intervene.


Copyright 2005, Chicago Tribune

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