WASHINGTON – A second reporter was held in contempt Wednesday by a federal judge for refusing to reveal confidential sources before a grand jury investigating the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity.
U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan ordered Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper (search) jailed for up to 18 months and the magazine fined $1,000 a day for refusing to comply with a grand jury subpoena seeking the testimony. Hogan suspended the jail time and fine pending the outcome of an appeal.
The ruling was nearly identical to one issued last week by Hogan in the case of Judith Miller (search), a reporter for The New York Times who is also refusing to name her sources. Miller and Cooper, both represented by lawyer Floyd Abrams, are expected to join together in appealing their cases on First Amendment grounds.
"No reporter in the United States should have to go to jail for simply doing their job," said Cooper, who is Time's White House correspondent.
Hogan repeatedly has cited the Supreme Court in ruling that reporters do not enjoy special protection from providing testimony to grand juries unless they can show prosecutorial harassment or bad faith. Hogan said he could find no evidence of either on the part of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who was appointed special prosecutor in the investigation.
"I'm convinced this is not a fishing expedition or an improper exercise of prosecutorial authority," Hogan said.
The investigation concerns whether a crime was committed when someone leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame (search), whose name was published by syndicated columnist Robert Novak (search) on July 14, 2003.
The column appeared after Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, wrote a newspaper opinion column criticizing President Bush's claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger — a claim the CIA had asked Wilson to check out.
Wilson has said he believes his wife's name was leaked as payback for his outspokenness.
Disclosure of the identity of an undercover intelligence officer can be a federal crime, if prosecutors can show the leak was intentional and the leaker knew about the officer's secret status.
Novak, who cited two senior administration officials as his sources, has refused to say whether he has testified or been subpoenaed. Fitzgerald declined comment Wednesday.
Prosecutors have interviewed President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other current or former administration officials in the investigation. At least five reporters have been subpoenaed.
In August, Cooper agreed to provide limited testimony about a conversation he had with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, after Libby released Cooper from his promise of confidentiality. Fitzgerald then issued a second, broader subpoena seeking the names of other sources.
"The prosecutor came back a few days later and basically asked for everything in my notebook," Cooper said.
Abrams said he expected legal filings in the appeals of both Miller and Cooper to be completed by Nov. 10 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which would then likely schedule an oral argument. That means the CIA leak criminal investigation, which began in September 2003, could drag on into early 2005.