NEW YORK (AP) — Breaking ranks with the New York Times, Time magazine said yesterday it would comply with a court order to hand over the notes of a reporter threatened with jail time for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into the unmasking of a CIA operative.
Time relented just days after the Supreme Court rejected appeals from its White House correspondent, Matt Cooper, and New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who have been locked in an eight-month battle with the government to protect their confidential sources.
The magazine said the high court’s action will have “a chilling effect” on journalists’ work but that Time had no choice.
“The same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts,” Time said.
Representatives for both reporters said they believe that the turning over of the notes and other material would eliminate the need for Mr. Cooper or Miss Miller to testify before a grand jury and remove any justification for jailing them.
A special counsel is investigating who in the Bush administration leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame, a possible federal crime. U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan has threatened to jail Mr. Cooper and Miss Miller for refusing to reveal their sources.
They are due back in Judge Hogan’s court next week for further arguments on whether they should be sent to jail. The grand jury investigating the leak expires in October, and the journalists, if jailed, would be freed at that time.
Miss Miller has not changed her position on refusing to disclose her sources, said her attorney, Robert Bennett. She was not available for comment, the newspaper said.
In a statement, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said: “We are deeply disappointed by Time Inc.’s decision to deliver the subpoenaed records.” He noted that one of its reporters served 40 days in jail in 1978 in a similar dispute.
“Our focus is now on our reporter, Judith Miller, and supporting her during this difficult time,” Mr. Sulzberger said.
Mr. Cooper’s attorney, Richard Sauber, did not return a call for comment. Mr. Cooper, through a representative, declined to comment.
Outside court on Wednesday, Mr. Cooper said he hoped the magazine would not turn over the documents requested by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago who has been heading the grand jury probe into who disclosed Mrs. Plame’s identity days after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly disparaged President Bush’s case for invading Iraq.
Time’s editor in chief, Norman Pearlstine, said the company would turn over all records, notes and e-mail traffic in the company’s system concerning the case.
“The court concluded that a citizen’s duty to testify before a grand jury takes precedence over the First Amendment,” Mr. Pearlstine told the Associated Press. “I do not agree with that, but I have to follow the laws like every other citizen.”