Ten days after the Supreme Court declined to hear their case, New York Times reporter Judith Miller was ordered jailed immediately, and Time magazine scribe Matthew Cooper agreed to testify before a grand jury probing the leak of an undercover CIA agent’s identity — a federal offense.
Miller, who investigated the leak but never wrote a story, refused at a hearing Wednesday to reveal her source. Cooper said his source had released him earlier in the day from his pledge of confidentiality.
Cooper’s employer, Time Inc., agreed last week to turn over his emails and notes to the case’s special prosecutor. But the judge, Thomas F. Hogan of Federal District Court in Washington, said Cooper’s testimony was still required.
Miller is the first Times reporter in more than 25 years to be jailed for refusing to name a confidential source.
According to news reports Wednesday, Hogan rejected a request by Miller and her lawyers that she be allowed to serve her sentence at home or at a federal “prison camp” in Connecticut. He ordered her to be taken to a jail in the Washington, D.C., area until October — when the grand jury proceedings will conclude — or until she agrees to testify.
“There are times when the greater good of our democracy demands an act of conscience. Judy has chosen such an act in honoring her promise of confidentiality to her sources,” said Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of the New York Times Co. “She believes, as do we, that the free flow of information is critical to an informed citizenry.”
He urged Congress to move on federal shield legislation “so that other journalists will not have to face imprisonment for doing their jobs.”
Times executive editor Bill Keller called the ruling “an alarming conclusion to a confounding case.”
“It is confounding because of the lingering mystery about what crime has been committed and what, exactly, the special prosecutor hopes to accomplish by the draconian measure of punishing an honorable journalist for doing her job. It is alarming because it is likely to serve future coverups of government wrongdoing by making it harder for journalists to penetrate the official barriers of spin and secrecy. Anyone who believes powerful institutions need to be closely, aggressively watched should feel a shiver up the spine.”
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said Tuesday, “Journalists are not entitled to promise complete confidentiality — no one in America is.”
Miller and Cooper were sentenced to 18 months in prison last fall for civil contempt of court, but the sentences were stayed pending appeals that ended at the Supreme Court last week.
The identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame was first revealed by syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who attributed the information to two top Bush administration officials.
Plame is the wife of former diplomat Joseph Wilson, who published comments critical of the Bush administration. Novak’s report came soon after, and critics accused the administration of leaking Plame’s identity to retaliate against Wilson.
Novak hasn’t said whether he was subpoenaed or has testified. He promised recently to “reveal all” when the case is over.