The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from news organizations fighting to protect confidential sources, refusing to consider the case of four reporters in legal trouble over their stories about former nuclear weapons scientist Wen Ho Lee.

The court's action, released Monday, was taken without comment. Late last week, Lee settled his privacy lawsuit, and he will receive $1.6 million from the government and five news organizations.

Journalists had been in civil contempt of court for refusing to disclose who leaked them information about an espionage investigation of Lee, a nuclear weapons scientist fired from his job at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Lee sued the government for violating his rights under the Privacy Act.

The four reporters are H. Josef Hebert of The Associated Press, James Risen of The New York Times, Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times and Pierre Thomas, formerly of CNN and now working for ABC News.

Justices could have dismissed the appeal based on the out-of-court settlement. Instead, they flatly rejected the appeals, which had been filed on behalf of the reporters during the legal wrangling with Lee.

Justice Stephen Breyer did not participate.