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Two reporters subpoenaed in leak investigation

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Two reporters subpoenaed in leak investigation

  • Reporters from NBC and Time received federal subpoenas to appear before the grand jury investigating the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity.

May 24, 2004 — A federal grand jury has subpoenaed Tim Russert, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to answer questions regarding the leak of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity.

NBC and Time plan to fight the subpoenas. NBC News president Neal Shapiro said the subpoena would have a “chilling effect” on his station’s ability to report the news because “sources will simply stop speaking with the press if they fear those conversations will become public,” the Associated Press reported Sunday.

Robin Bierstedt, vice president and deputy general counsel of Time, fully agreed. “It is Time Inc.’s policy to protect its confidential sources. While we would like all of our reporting to be on the record, a promise of confidentiality is sometimes necessary to get information that would otherwise be unavailable,” according to the AP.

Plame’s identity was first revealed by conservative columnist Robert Novak in a July column in which he claimed the information came from two administration officials. Novak has not publicly named the officials, although it is believed that many other Washington-area journalists were fed the information. Only Novak chose to reveal Plame’s identity.

Plame’s name was revealed after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly criticized the Bush administration’s assertion that Iraq had been attempting to buy uranium from Africa to make nuclear weapons. Wilson has accused various White House staff members of making the disclosure in retaliation.

Last week, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a U.S. attorney appointed to lead the leak investigation, requested interviews with Russert, Cooper, Washington Post reporters Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler, and several Newsday reporters. Justice Department guidelines require prosecutors to negotiate with reporters before seeking subpoenas.

Although many federal courts have held that the First Amendment gives journalists some protection against subpoenas for testimony or information, the Supreme Court’s 1972 decision Branzburg v. Hayes rejected a constitutionally-based reporter’s privilege against testimony before a grand jury investigating criminal charges.

In the Plame investigation, the leaker or leakers could face criminal charges under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which makes the knowing disclosure of an undercover operative’s identity a federal crime.


© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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