WASHINGTON – Two reporters facing jail for refusing to divulge their sources about the leak of an undercover CIA officer's name lost on Tuesday in federal court for the third time.
The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined to reconsider a three-judge panel's ruling compelling Time magazine's Matthew Cooper (search) and The New York Times' Judith Miller to testify before a federal grand jury about their confidential sources or go to jail for up to 18 months.
Both publications will ask the appeals court to put off any sanctions while they pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court.
"We are disappointed with the court's decision and we will seek a stay in order to have sufficient time to seek U.S. Supreme Court review," Times spokesman Toby Usnik (search) said.
Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, serving as a special prosecutor in the case, has said the refusal of Cooper and Miller to identify their sources has stalled his investigation into who revealed the name of CIA (search) officer Valerie Plame.
Disclosure of an undercover intelligence officer's identity can be a federal crime if prosecutors can show the leak was intentional and the person who released that information knew of the officer's secret status.
U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan held the reporters in contempt in October, rejecting their argument that the First Amendment shielded them from revealing their sources.
Neither Cooper nor Miller wrote the original story that identified Plame. Her name was first published in a 2003 column by Robert Novak, who cited two unidentified senior Bush administration officials as his sources. It is unclear whether Novak has cooperated with the investigation or whether the grand jury hearing evidence has returned any indictments.
The column appeared after Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, wrote a newspaper opinion piece criticizing the Bush administration's claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger. The CIA had asked Wilson to check out the uranium claim. Wilson has said he believes his wife's name was leaked as retaliation for his critical comments.
Cooper reported on the Plame controversy. Miller never published a story about the matter, although she gathered material about Plame.
Fitzgerald has said that his investigation is complete except for hearing from Cooper and Miller.