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New York Times reporter jailed

Time magazine reporter agrees to testify about sourcing



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Judith Miller
Matthew Cooper
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge ordered New York Times reporter Judith Miller jailed for contempt of court Wednesday for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's name. She was taken into custody immediately.

Miller faces up to four months in jail, the length of time before the term of the federal grand jury in the case expires.

"We have to follow the law," U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said.

"If she were given a pass today, then the next person could say as a matter of principle, 'I will not obey the law because of the abortion issue,' or the election of a president or whatever. They could claim the moral high ground, and then we could descend into anarchy."

Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who also faced jail time, was spared confinement after agreeing to testify.

Outside the courthouse, he defended his decision, saying the source had released him from confidentiality that day.

"That source gave me a personal, unambiguous, uncoerced waiver to speak to the grand jury," Cooper told reporters.

He would not disclose the source.

Time Inc. released a statement saying that "by personally and directly releasing Matt from his obligation to confidentiality, his source has made the decision for Matt to testify a simple one, as other journalists have already testified in this case after being released by their sources."

New York Times' executive editor Bill Keller called Miller's imprisonment "a chilling conclusion to an utterly confounding case."

Publisher and chairman of the New York Times Company, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., said the company "will do all that we can to ensure Judy's safety and continue to fight for the principles that led her to make a most difficult and honorable choice."

He urged Congress to "move forward on federal shield legislation, so that other journalists will not have to face imprisonment for doing their jobs."(Full statement)

Floyd Abrams, a lawyer for Miller and the newspaper, said the reporter "should be honored" for serving time to protect a source.

"What Judy has done is, as I've said, in the tradition of journalists throughout our history," he said. "And I'll say another part of that tradition has often been that journalists were punished for their position."

Reporter's privilege at issue

The showdown between special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and the two journalists stems from the federal investigation into who leaked the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.

In court documents filed Tuesday, Fitzgerald wrote that even though Time magazine surrendered Cooper's notes in the case, the journalist's testimony is still needed in the investigation.

"First, Cooper's own article noted that the conduct of the officials involved an attack on an administration critic, not whistle-blowing," Fitzgerald wrote.

"Second, at a time when journalists seek a reporter's privilege akin to the attorney-client privilege, they ought to recognize that an attorney can be compelled to testify if his client communicates to the attorney for the purpose of committing a crime or fraud. ... Third, journalists are not entitled to promise complete confidentiality -- no one in America is."

Fitzgerald also opposed Cooper's and Miller's request for home detention -- rather than a jail sentence -- for refusing to reveal their sources.

"Special treatment for journalistic contemnors may negate the coercive effect contemplated ... and enable, rather than deter, defiance of the court's authority," Fitzgerald wrote. (Full story)

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press expressed disappointment with the government's position.

"I had been hoping by Time turning over Mr. Cooper's notes that would keep Mr. Fitzgerald happy," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the organization, which advocates press freedoms. "We're disappointed and more than a little bit perplexed."

Leak as retribution?

Plame was first identified as a CIA operative in a column by Robert Novak, a CNN contributor and former "Crossfire" co-host, citing two unidentified senior Bush administration officials as sources.

The column was published shortly after Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, had publicly challenged the White House's claim that Saddam Hussein's government tried to obtain uranium in Africa in an effort to develop a nuclear weapons program.

Wilson, who wrote a July 6, 2003, piece in The New York Times on the matter, has said his wife's name was leaked as retribution.

Cooper then wrote an article for Time naming Plame, but Miller only gathered information without writing about it.

Novak has declined to say whether he testified before the grand jury, but he has avoided contempt charges in the case.

On Sunday a lawyer for Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, acknowledged that Rove talked to Cooper before Plame's name became public, but that he did not disclose any confidential information.

Last week Time surrendered Cooper's notes and e-mail to Fitzgerald's office after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of Hogan's ruling finding the reporters in contempt.

The prospect of two prominent journalists going to jail has led to a renewed push on Capitol Hill by free press advocates for a federal shield law that could provide legal protection to journalists seeking to keep sources' identities confidential.

CNN's Terry Frieden contributed to this report.

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