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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Time Magazine Goes Down in Plame's Case, Will Turn Over Reporter's Notes, Other Records

Time magazine announced earlier this morning it will comply with a federal court order and turn over records sought by by Special Prosecuror Patrick Fitzgerald, including the notes of the magazine's reporter, Matt Cooper.

No word yet today on whether The New York Times will follow Time's lead and comply with a similar subpoena it received involving its reporter Judity Miller. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Cooper and Miller of a judge's decision to hold them in contempt for refusing to reveal their sources on stories unrelated to columnist Robert Novak's disclosure of Valerie Plame's CIA employment.

Time, The New York Times and a host of professional journalism organizations have resisted Fitzgerald's demands, citing fear that revealing confidential sources will jeopardize the ability of reporters to find and publish stories on official corruption, crime and other public policy issues.

More than half of the states have laws that shield reporters from being forced to reveal confidential sources. Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN, has introduced a bill establishing a similar law at the federal level.

Here's the Time Inc. statement, courtesy of Jim Romanesko:

New York, June 30 – 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 decision follows the Supreme Court’s refusal to review a federal court order requiring production of the documents in a case involving Time magazine’s White House correspondent, Matt Cooper (Matthew Cooper and Time Inc. v. United States, No. 04-1508.) Norman Pearlstine, Editor in Chief, issued the following statement:

“The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, including the right to gather information of interest to the public and, where necessary, to protect the confidentiality of sources.

Time Inc. believes in that guarantee. That is why we have supported from the outset the efforts of Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper in resisting the Special Counsel’s attempts to obtain information regarding Mr. Cooper’s confidential sources. Time Inc. and Mr. Cooper have fought this case all the way from the district court to the Supreme Court of the United States.

In this particular case, where national security and the role of a grand jury have been at issue, the Supreme Court chose to let stand the district court’s order requiring Time Inc. and Mr. Cooper to comply with the Special Counsel’s subpoenas. It did so after the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed that order.

In declining to review the important issues presented by this case, 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.

It is also worth noting that many foreign governments, including China, Venezuela, and Cameroon, to name a few, refer to U.S. contempt rulings when seeking to justify their own restrictive press laws.

Despite these concerns, Time Inc. shall deliver the subpoenaed records to the Special Counsel in accordance with its duties under the law. 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.

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.

Time Inc.’s decision 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. Since the days of Attorney General John Mitchell, the Justice Department has sought confidential sources from reporters as a last resort, not as an easy option. Neither Archibald Cox, the Watergate Special Prosecutor, nor Judge John Sirica sought to force the Washington Post or its reporters to reveal the identity of “Deep Throat,” the prized confidential source.

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 forty-nine 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.”


UPDATE:

The New York Times is not pleased and has issued the following statement by publisher Arthur Sulzberger:

"We are deeply disappointed by Time Inc.’s decision to deliver the subpoenaed records. 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."

I expect more will be heard from Time, the Times, the individual reporters and a lot of other folks as the day develops.

What are you doing out there? William Safire wants to know.