Time Inc. To Hand Over Notes in Plame Case, As ‘NYT’ Protests

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By: Joe Strupp

Time Inc. plans to turn over documents requested by a special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame case that would reveal the source who leaked Plame’s identity to Time reporter Matthew Cooper. But whre does that leave the other reporter on the hook in this case, Judith Miller?

“Time Inc. said it would comply with a court order requiring it to deliver the subpoenaed records to a grand jury in connection with the Special Counsel’s investigation into the Valerie Plame matter,” the company said in a statement Thursday. (E&P first reported Time was considering such a move on Tuesday.)

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The New York Times and chairman of The New York Times Company, issued a statement criticizing Time. “We are deeply disappointed by Time Inc.’s decision to deliver the subpoenaed records,” he said in the statement. “We faced similar pressures in 1978 when both our reporter Myron Farber and the Times Company were held in contempt of court for refusing to provide the names of confidential sources. Mr. Farber served 40 days in jail and we were forced to pay significant fines. Our focus is now on our own reporter, Judith Miller, and in supporting her during this difficult time.”

Time Inc.’s statement also included a lengthy explanation from Norman Pearlstine, Time magazine’s editor in chief, about why the company chose to hand over the documents, which are expected to include Cooper’s notes. While he appears to criticize the federal courts and the prosecutor for seeking such information, Pearlstine then seeks to explain why Time had no other choice, in his view.

“In declining to review the important issues presented by this case,” he wrote, “we believe that the Supreme Court has limited press freedom in ways that will have a chilling effect on our work and that may damage the free flow of information that is so necessary in a democratic society. It may also encourage excesses by overzealous prosecutors. It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court has left uncertain what protections the First Amendment and the federal common law provide journalists and their confidential sources.

“But, despite these concerns, Time Inc. shall deliver the subpoenaed records to the Special Counsel in accordance with its duties under the law,” Pearlstine revealed. “The same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts and respect for their rulings and judgments. That Time Inc. strongly disagrees with the courts provides no immunity. The innumerable Supreme Court decisions in which even presidents have followed orders with which they strongly disagreed evidences that our nation lives by the rule of law, and that none of us is above it.”

Time’s agreement to reveal documents in the case comes a day after U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, who held Cooper and Judith Miller of the New York Times in contempt, gave the reporters one week to agree to give up their sources or face jail. Time also had been given a week to turn over the documents or face a $1,000 per day fine.

Miller has said that she would not reveal her source, while Cooper has said he does not want to give up the source but was not sure how Time’s actions would affect his situation. “I would prefer that they not disclose the identity of my sources, but that’s up to them,” he told the Times Wednesday.

The next hearing in the case is set for Wednesday, July 6.

Pearlstine argued that the company’s actions should nullify the subpoena requiring Cooper to testify.

“We believe that our decision to provide the Special Prosecutor with the subpoenaed records obviates the need for Matt Cooper to testify and certainly removes any justification for incarceration,” he stated.

Finally, the statement reiterated the company’s support for confidential sources, declaring that its action “doesn’t represent a change in our philosophy, nor does it reflect a departure from our belief in the need for confidential sources. It does reflect a response to a profound departure from the practice of federal prosecutors when this case is compared with other landmark cases involving confidentiality over the past 30 years.

“Although we shall comply with the order to turn over the subpoenaed records, we shall continue to support the protection of confidential sources. We do so with the knowledge that 49 states and the District of Columbia now recognize some form of protection for confidential sources, and that legislation is now pending in Congress to enact a federal shield law for confidential sources.”

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