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Hatfill seeks contempt citations for journalists

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Oct. 3, 2007  ·   Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army scientist and one time suspect in the 2001 anthrax…

Oct. 3, 2007  ·   Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army scientist and one time suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks, asked a federal judge Tuesday to hold two journalists in contempt for refusing to name which government sources leaked details about the investigation to the press.

Hatfill, a physician who had worked at an Army laboratory where the strain of anthrax used in the attacks was once studied, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice under the federal Privacy Act, seeking damages for the “intentional and willful” leaking of his name.

The court had earlier ordered five journalists to reveal their sources. On Tuesday, Hatfill’s attorneys asked for a contempt order against two of the journalists: James Stewart of CBS News and Toni Locy of USA Today. The motion does not address the three other reporters named in the suit — Newsweek‘s Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman and the Washington Post‘s Allan Lengel — but that does not mean that they have cooperated with Hatfill.

Hatfill’s attorneys are seeking fines for every day that Locy and Stewart do not cooperate. They have suggested U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton fine both reporters $1,000 per day. After one week, the fine would increase to $2,000 and continue to increase by a rate of $1,000 per week thereafter. The order also stated that media corporations should be prohibited from paying the fines for the reporters.

In addition, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan last week ordered ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross to disclose source information as part of the lawsuit.

The ruling comes one month after a federal judge in Washington ordered the initial five reporters to reveal their sources. The Ross subpoena is being handled in New York because of jurisdictional issues.

“We believe firmly in honoring promises of confidentiality to our sources, and we are guided by that principle in this case,” an ABC News spokesman told the Associated Press.

(Hatfill v. Gonzales)Adam Vingan

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