Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Supreme Court urged to protect reporters from jail time


Supreme Court urged to protect reporters from jail time

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 Tuesday; Miller's was made Monday.

The Supreme Court will decide next fall whether to consider the cases.

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.

Lawyers for Cooper argued in their appeal that without protection for confidential sources, journalists cannot keep people informed.