By: Joe Strupp
Thirty-six news organizations, ranging from Knight Ridder Newspapers to The Copley Press, joined in a court filing Wednesday in support of The New York Times’ Judith Miller and Time magazine’s Matthew Cooper, who have been held in contempt and face jail time for refusing to reveal sources in the Valerie Plame case, The Washington Post reported.
The ‘friend-of-the-court” brief was filed by the group that includes Advance Publications, Hearst Newspapers, Associated Press, and the White House Correspondents Association, among others. All are in support of the reporters who face possible jail time for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury investigating the leak of former CIA Agent Plame’s identity. Lawyers for Miller and Cooper filed an appeal Tuesday asking the full appeals court to review the case.
Filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the 40-page brief argues that a federal court “should first determine whether a crime has been committed in the disclosure of an undercover CIA operative’s name before prosecutors are allowed to continue seeking testimony from journalists about their confidential sources.”
The brief also contends there is “ample evidence … to doubt that a crime has been committed” in the case, which relates to whether Bush administration officials knowingly revealed the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame in 2003. Plame’s name was published first by syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak and later by other publications.
A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit ruled in February that Miller and Cooper should be jailed for contempt if they continued to refuse to name their sources to the grand jury.
The latest brief argues that the statute at issue in the case, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, seeks to stop “egregious attempts to expose U.S. spies and was crafted to avoid ensnaring reporters going about their business,” the Post reported.
The brief also seeks a hearing to simply determine if a crime has occurred in the Plame case
Bruce Sanford, a lawyer who oversaw the filing, told the Post that “it’s a very poor result if somehow reporters got entangled in a net of prison sentences in an investigation which ends up with no indictment because no crime has been committed.”
New York Times and Time magazine lawyers have said they are willing to appeal to the Supreme Court if necessary.