Contempt ruling dismissed; source waives confidentiality

Washington, D.C., August 24, 2004—A contempt of court ruling against a Time magazine correspondent was dismissed yesterday after he agreed to testify in the CIA leak case. Matthew Cooper agreed to give a deposition after one of his sources, vice presidential aide I. Lewis Libby, waived confidentiality.

Cooper was held in contempt this month by a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C. He had declined to answer questions for a grand jury investigating a leak by government officials in which a clandestine CIA operative was identified by name.

Judge Thomas F. Hogan ordered that Cooper go to jail and the magazine be fined $1,000 daily for refusing to comply with a subpoena issued by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. The penalties were suspended pending appeal.

On Monday, Cooper agreed to answer the subpoena after Libby, in an unusual step, relieved the journalist of his promise of confidentiality.

“Mr. Cooper agreed to give the deposition because the one source specifically
asked about by the Special Counsel, I. Lewis Libby, the vice-president’s chief of staff, gave a personal waiver of confidentiality for Mr. Cooper to testify,” Time magazine said in a statement. “Mr. Libby also gave Time permission to release this information to
the public.”

Earlier this month, another journalist who was issued a subpoena in the case, NBC’s Tim Russert, agreed to speak with prosecutors, but was not asked any questions requiring him to reveal confidential sources, the network said.

The grand jury was convened after columnist Robert Novak named Valerie Plame as a CIA operative in his syndicated column on July 14, 2003. Plame is married to former U.S. diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was enlisted by the Bush administration to travel to Niger to investigate allegations that Iraq was attempting to buy enriched uranium.

The willful disclosure of an undercover CIA officer is a federal crime under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982.

Novak’s column, which cited two unnamed administration sources, appeared eight days after Wilson wrote an op-ed in The New York Times that challenged the administration’s assertions on the uranium issue. Other reports surfaced later with Plame’s identity, some suggesting that administration officials leaked the name in retaliation against Wilson.