New York Times reporter Judith Miller yesterday refused to reveal her source of information about a CIA officer and now will serve up to four months in jail.
“If journalists cannot be trusted to guarantee confidentiality, then journalists cannot function. There cannot be a free press,” Mrs. Miller said at an hourlong hearing before Judge Thomas Hogan at U.S. District Court in Washington.
In October, Judge Hogan ordered Mrs. Miller and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to divulge who revealed to them the identity of covert operative Valerie Plame. He rejected both reporters’ claims that they were protected by First Amendment rights.
Mr. Cooper, however, agreed to cooperate rather than face incarceration.
“I am prepared to testify. I will comply,” he said, explaining that he had received a “dramatic” waiver from the source just hours before his court appearance, enabling him to reveal that source’s identity.
“I received express personal consent,” Mr. Cooper told the judge.
Mrs. Miller was led away from the courthouse by deputies, surrounded by cameras and shouting reporters even as her employer, her attorney and Mr. Cooper offered statements to the press.
“This is a chilling conclusion to a totally confounding case,” New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said. “What crime has been committed?” Floyd Abrams, her attorney, said, “Judy Miller has not been accused of a crime or convicted of a crime.”
Mr. Cooper offered condolences. “It’s a sad day. My heart goes out to Judy. This clearly points out the need for a national shield law.”
Although every state except Wyoming, and the District, offer protection for journalists protecting confidential sources, no federal law shields them from prosecution.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says the source committed a felony in revealing the name of Mrs. Plame. The two reporters would reveal this person, he argued, if the threat of prison loomed.
“We are trying to get to the bottom of whether a crime was committed, and by whom,” Mr. Fitzgerald said yesterday.
He has speculated that the source is within the White House and has questioned President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, his chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and White House adviser Karl Rove, among others.
The issue was drawn after Mrs. Plame’s husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, wrote a July 2003 New York Times opinion essay in which he accused Mr. Bush of “exaggerating the Iraqi threat.”
Syndicated columnist Robert Novak first revealed Mrs. Plame as an agent and cited two anonymous White House sources. Mr. Cooper followed up with his own version. Mrs. Miller asked questions, but did not write anything about it.
Mr. Wilson later said that his wife was purposefully “outed” by the White House in retribution for his criticisms.
Other journalists questioned why Mr. Novak has not been been cited. He has not commented, on the advice of his attorney. Yesterday, the New York Times reported: “Legal experts following the case have said they presume he has cooperated with the special prosecutor.”