Judge holds Times reporter in contempt in CIA case

New York, October 7, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned that a federal judge has held another reporter in contempt for not disclosing confidential sources to prosecutors investigating the leak of a CIA operative’s identity.

Judge Thomas F. Hogan today ordered New York Times reporter Judith Miller jailed until she agrees to testify about her sources before a grand jury, The Associated Press reported. She could be jailed up to 18 months.

Hogan, ruling in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said Miller could remain free while pursuing an appeal. Her lawyer, Floyd Abrams, said he would file notice of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the AP reported.

At least four other reporters—from NBC, Time magazine and The Washington Post—have been subpoenaed in the probe into which administration officials leaked the name of a undercover CIA operative. A government official’s willful disclosure of an undercover CIA officer is a crime.

“This sends a troubling message that the United States is more willing than ever to compel disclosure of confidential sources,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “It sets a poor example for the world, where many governments compel journalists to cooperate with investigations—compromising their independence and blocking their ability to gather news that officials want to keep secret.”

In August, Hogan found Time reporter Matthew Cooper in contempt. Cooper later agreed to testify after one of his sources, vice presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby, released him from a promise of confidentiality. Miller and Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said they would not agree to provide testimony even under those circumstances.

Syndicated columnist Robert Novak was the first to name Valerie Plame as the CIA operative, but special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has not moved to compel testimony from Novak. Novak declined again today to say whether he has been issued a subpoena.

Fitzgerald’s office has declined to comment on the strategy of compelling testimony from reporters who were not involved in the story that gave rise to the potential crime. Miller never wrote about Plame.

Novak’s July 14, 2003, column said that Plame is married to former U.S. diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV, whom the Bush administration sent to Niger to investigate allegations that Iraq was attempting to buy enriched uranium.

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

“Judy Miller has done nothing wrong,” Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement. “She is not the person who revealed the identity of a CIA agent. Yet she is the one who is facing time in jail while the very people who exposed Ms. Plame remain unpunished. The special counsel should be able to get to the bottom of this case without threatening reporters with jail.

“The pending imprisonment of Judy Miller is an attack on the ability of all journalists to report on the actions of governments, corporations and others,” Sulzberger said.