Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Will Reporters Go to Jail?

Discussed here and here is the ongoing controversy of whether two reporters (one from Time, Inc. and the other from the NYTimes) will face jail for not testifying on their source of a leak that provided them information allowing them to report the name of a CIA operative.  Although Time, Inc. caved in and gave up the reporter's notes, the special prosecutor is not satisfied and wants the two individuals to testify before a grand jury. What happens next remains to be seen (see CNN here). But hats off to the best column seen on this situation, a column here in the Hartford Courant, by Jim Shea, titled, "Can Prisons Survive Reporters?"

The decline of the reporter's privilege is interesting to follow as we see the decline of the attorney-client privilege.  (see NACDL report here) Both appear to be suffering at the hands of the executive branch, specifically prosecutors.



UPDATE: Yes and No

In answer to the question posed above, New York Times reporter Judith Miller will go to jail for civil contempt, but Time reporter Matthew Cooper will testify before the grand jury. Cooper stated that his source had released him from their confidentiality agreement.  An AP story (here) and Wall Street Journal story (here) report that Miller may have received a similar release from her source (who may be the same person as the source for Cooper's articles), but she stated that such a release was "coerced" and so she will continue to protect the person's identity.

For those who are interested, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's brief seeking the imposition of a civil contempt on both reporters if they continued to refuse to testify is below. (ph)

Download special_counsel_brief.pdf

Addendum - It looks like Time reporter Matthew Cooper has been spared jail.  According to the Wall Street Journal here, the reporter's source has given the OK for Cooper to talk.  But not Judith Miller of the NYTimes.  Not everyone has her in their fan club.  Check out this story that references Martha Stewart. here  (esp)

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