Reporters' phone records subpoenaed

Reporter's Privilege | Feature | September 10, 2004

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Reporters' phone records subpoenaed

  • The federal prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak investigation has subpoenaed reporters' telephone records in an unrelated Illinois leak investigation.

Sep. 10, 2004 -- A federal prosecutor in Illinois has subpoenaed two New York Times reporters' telephone records for a grand jury investigation into whether government employees leaked plans of a raid on an Islamic charity suspected of funding al-Qaida.

The same prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has subpoenaed at least four reporters in a separate grand jury investigation into the leak of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. Fitzgerald was appointed as a special prosecutor to handle the leak investigation because of Attorney General John Ashcroft's close ties with the administration officials being investigated.

Fitzgerald notified the Times in a letter sometime last week that it had obtained a subpoena for telephone company records of reporters Philip Shenon and Judith Miller. Miller has also been subpoenaed in the Plame investigation.

Attorneys for the Times and representatives of the U.S. Attorneys office in Chicago would not comment because of grand jury secrecy rules, but Times attorney Floyd Abrams told The Washington Post that the matter was still being discussed with Fitzgerald, and that he did not know whether the records had been obtained yet or if Fitzgerald could be persuaded "not to look at them." All information available at this time is from the Post .

On Dec. 14, 2001, NATO and U.S. troops raided overseas offices of the Global Relief Foundation, which was suspected of providing funds to al-Qaida. The U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago was also conducting a criminal investigation into the group's Illinois office.

Roger Simmons, an attorney for GRF, told the Post that Shenon called the charity on Dec. 13, 2001, seeking comment on seizures that the Times had been told were to take place the following day. Simmons denied that GRF destroyed any documents and notified the FBI agents during the raid that GRF had learned of the raid in advance.

In 2002, Fitzgerald questioned GRF officials before a grand jury in an attempt to learn the Times ' source. In 2003, he was denied permission by Department of Justice officials to seek a subpoena for Times reporters' phone records.

Department of Justice regulations require that "[a]ll reasonable attempts should be made to obtain information from alternative sources before considering issuing a subpoena to a member of the news media," or for "telephone toll records of any member of the news media."

(Media Counsel: Floyd Abrams, Cahill, Gordon & Reindel, LLP, New York) -- GP

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