Release a relief, but CPJ troubled by U.S. message in Miller case

New York, September 30, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is relieved that New York Times reporter Judith Miller has been freed after spending 85 days in a U.S. prison for refusing to disclose a confidential source. But CPJ is deeply troubled by the long-term damage that the federal prosecutor’s investigation has had on the free flow of information, and the message sent worldwide by jailing a journalist.

Miller was released Thursday after agreeing to testify before a grand jury investigating the 2003 leak of a CIA operative’s identity. The Times reported that Miller had obtained what she described as a voluntary and personal waiver from her source. Miller said her source made clear that she was not bound by any pledge of confidentiality, The Times reported.

The Times identified Miller’s source as I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Richard Cheney. Miller was scheduled to testify today in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. in front of the same judge, Thomas F. Hogan, who ordered her to jail. The Times said Miller’s lawyers reached agreement with the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, to limit Miller’s testimony to that source.

Hogan jailed Miller on July 6 for refusing to testify about her conversations with a confidential source. In the same proceeding, another journalist who was also facing contempt charges, Time magazine White House correspondent Matthew Cooper, agreed to testify, telling the court that his source had given him “personal consent” to release him from his promise of confidentiality. Cooper has testified that he spoke with Libby and presidential aide Karl Rove.

“The U.S. prosecutor and courts have sent a terrible message that has reverberated across the world,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “From Egypt to Cameroon to Venezuela, this case has been cited to justify the jailing of journalists and the repression of press freedom.”