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Reporters beseech judge to reconsider order to compel testimony

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Reporters James Stewart and Toni Locy asked Judge Reggie Walton to reconsider his order compelling them to testify in former…

Reporters James Stewart and Toni Locy asked Judge Reggie Walton to reconsider his order compelling them to testify in former Army scientist Steven Hatfill’s Privacy Act suit against the government.

In 2001, then Attorney General John Ashcroft identified Hatfill as a “person of interest” in the Department of Justice’s investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks. Hatfill subsequently brought suit against the Department of Justice for releasing information about their investigation to the media.

Hatfill subpoenaed five reporters in his suit with the hopes of identifying the sources of the leaked information. When the reporter’s refused, Walton issued an order compelling their testimony and Hatfill later asked that Stewart and Locy be held in contempt for continuing to refuse to identify their sources.

Since that time, three of the reporters’ sources at the DOJ and FBI identified themselves and provided depositions for Hatfill. Stewart refuses to identify any additional sources, and Locy contends that she does not remember who gave her specific information about the Hatfill investigation and refuses to identify any sources who spoke with her generally about terrorism and anthrax issues in general.

In their motion for reconsideration, Stewart’s attorneys argue that the testimony of the three already identified sources, combined with additional testimony already on record that all of the disclosures Hatfill identified as pivotal to his case were made by at least one of these three sources and that all the categories of disclosures at issue were in fact made by specifically identified employees of the defendant agencies.

The need for further testimony from Stewart then, is eliminated, and the identity of Stewarts’ additional sources is no longer central to Hatfill’s case.

Both Stewart’s and Locy’s attorneys also added that Hatfill’s former press agent and former attorney were at least partly to blame for the media attention Hatfill received. According to testimony from the reporters, Tom Connolly, Hatfill’s then attorney, encouraged them on multiple occasions to report on Hatfill’s situation and the FBI’s inappropriate targeting of the scientist.