High court urged to hear CIA leak case
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has been asked to throw out contempt orders
against two journalists who refused to reveal sources in the leak of an
undercover CIA officer’s identity.
Lawyers for Time magazine’s Matthew Cooper and The New York
Times’ Judith Miller want the justices to clarify protections reporters have
in keeping sources confidential. Cooper’s
appeal was filed yesterday; Miller’s was made on May 9. (Former Solicitor
General Theodore Olson now represents Cooper, while Floyd Abrams, who had
represented both journalists, remains Miller’s counsel.)
The Supreme Court ends a nine-month term next month and could not consider
the cases before next fall.
Cooper and Miller face up to 18 months in jail for refusing to testify before
a grand jury as part of an investigation into who divulged the name of CIA
officer Valerie Plame. Disclosure of an undercover intelligence officer’s
identity can be a federal crime.
Plame’s name was first made public in 2003 by columnist Robert Novak, who
cited unidentified senior Bush administration officials for the information. The
column appeared after Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, wrote a
newspaper opinion piece criticizing the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq
sought uranium in Niger.
Cooper reported on Plame, while Miller gathered material for an article about
the intelligence officer but never wrote a story. A federal judge held the
reporters in contempt last fall, and an appeals court rejected their argument
that the First Amendment shielded them from revealing their sources.
Cooper’s appeal argues that without protection for confidential sources,
journalists cannot keep people informed.