June 27, 2005


High Court Declines to Hear Appeal of Reporters in Plame Case (Richard B. Schmitt, June 27, 2005, LA Times)

The Supreme Court today cleared the way for the Justice Department to jail two reporters who refused to reveal confidential sources to a special prosecutor investigating how the name of an undercover CIA operative ended up in a newspaper column.

The high court declined to hear the appeal of reporters Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, who had argued that the 1st Amendment protected them from having to identify their sources to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the politically charged case.

Miller and Cooper were held in contempt last year for refusing to cooperate in the investigation, and sentenced to prison, pending appeal. Today's ruling means that the government is now free to seek their incarceration, for up to 18 months.

The reporters have previously indicated that they would go to jail rather than reveal their sources. Fitzgerald has said their testimony is essential to completing his investigation.

Pursue the convictions but then have the President pardon them because this case is so trivial.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 27, 2005 4:04 PM

No opinion about this case, but I do not believe in reporter shield laws.

As a practical matter -- and in my career I've only had to argue this once to a judge and I made my point -- 99 times out of 100, the government can get the information it wants without bothering the reporter and, in the interests of an unfettered public discourse, should do so.

In the 100th event, if it's important enough to the reporter, you've gotta be prepared to go to jail.

Since reporters have no more power to gather information than any Joe on the street, unless one happens to be an eye (or ear) witness to an event, anything the reporter can get, the prosecutor can get.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 27, 2005 4:23 PM

OJ: this is civil contempt. They will be held until they purge the contempt or their testimony becomes otherwise irrelevant. They will be released if the Plame case goes away, as it probably will.

I do disagree with Harry. Given that the use of undisclosed sources has become a plague on the media, I think that the first person the prosecutors should subpoena are the reporters. Filing the jails with the liberal creeps will have a salutary effect on the MSM.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 27, 2005 6:56 PM

Hear, hear, Robert!

Posted by: obc at June 27, 2005 10:13 PM

I wonder if Cooper and Miller are on speaking terms with Novak, or for that matter, Joe Wilson and his wife.

How long before someone like Al Hunt attacks Novak for "allowing" two fine reporters to go to jail?

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 27, 2005 11:21 PM

Since reporters have no more power to gather information than any Joe on the street

I'm not sure I'm convinced of that, Harry. Don't reporters get access to sources because they have power to help (or harm) the source that the average Joe does not?

Posted by: joe shropshire at June 28, 2005 1:05 AM


You have a long wait. Al Hunt needs the CNN paycheck.

Renting Siberian lodgings from the Russians and putting the entire NY Times workforce there might not be such a bad idea.

Posted by: bart at June 28, 2005 7:12 AM

Well, yes, joe, we do get access because people want to manipulate us. But that isn't power. It's the greatest weakness of the press.

We cannot force anyone to talk. A prosecutor can. Or, at least, punish the silent.

Robert, identifying a source does not improve his credibility. Orrin knows that Wilson is the source of the no-yellowcake-in-Niger story, but he still doesn't believe it.

One form of credibility is the past record of the reporter. That is not an especially solid criterion, as the 'Hitler diaries' hoax proved. But we all do it all the time, because life is too short to do anything else.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 28, 2005 2:32 PM

Mark Felt (Deep Throat) never would have talked to the average Joe but he had no problem talking to Bob Woodward.

When a reporter and a source have the same agenda it's often to their mutual advantage for the source to remain anonymous.

Posted by: at June 28, 2005 2:55 PM


Don't forget that Al Hunt is married to Karen Elliott House, the publisher and senior VP of Dow Jones (parent of the WSJ).

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 28, 2005 4:32 PM

Wilson wasn't a source--his report was public. I'd believe him if he were just a source instead of a partisan hack.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 5:42 PM

No he isn't. House is conservative. Hunt is married to Judy Woodruff.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 5:56 PM

Now, that was a goof. Although House is not the kind of conservative you may think she is (have you ever read Ken Auletta on her?).

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 28, 2005 10:58 PM

OJ that would explain why the WSJ canceled his column.

Harry: its not credibility that I worry about. Although when I see unnamed sources, I just assume the reporter made it up. It is the availability of the media to whore for the permanent government while they play their little games.

Mark Felt is the poster child for why anonymous sources should not be allowed. He was derelict in his duty as a high ranking member of the Law enforcement branch to report his knowledge of wrong doing to the Grand Jury, he used it to settle his beef with his boss and the President. That is not right and it should not be countenanced or encouraged.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 28, 2005 11:00 PM

She used to appear on McLaughlin Group in the 80s, mostly because she's a hottie, seemed conservative enough...for an East Coast Establishment media type.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 11:05 PM

One of Auletta's best anecdotes is when she was chewed out by Norman Pearlstine for appearing on McLaughlin without 'authorization'. She threw a glass of wine at him (Al Hunt was a witness, which is probably why I thought of him). Then she broke down in tears.

I used to live down the hall from someone who worked for McLaughlin back in the early 80s - whenever he wanted to convene a staff meeting, he stuck his head out of his office, and yelled "BAGS!". The girls were all supposed to report immediately. For some reason, I always wanted him to say it to Eleanor Clift on the air.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 29, 2005 12:13 AM

House is married to Kamm, Dow's CEO.

My opinion is that if Felt had played in the system, he would have been eliminated. I don't know if that was why he chose to play outside.

Or put it another way: if I'd been him, I wouldn't have played within the system. (I have an interesting, though lengthy family story of what happens when a man chooses to play within the system and the system is being run by killers, if anyone wants to hear it.)

Robert, I don't care how you judge anybody's reports. We reporters cannot control that. 'We report, you decide.'

But I think you are expecting an awful lot for 50 cents.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 29, 2005 3:22 PM