Judith Miller, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, received a grand jury subpoena to testify regarding the leak of the identity of an undercover CIA agent, Valerie Plame. It was believed that Miller had information regarding which it was that broke federal law by disclosing the identity of an undercover agent. Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper was also subpoenaed. Miller and Cooper declined to reveal their sources, arguing that their confidentiality agreement with sources must be upheld and was protected by the First Amendment and reporter's privilege. Miller and Cooper were sentenced to four months in jail for contempt of court.
[...] With any number of journalists and sources intimidated by the district court's ruling, Kirtley doubts its impact on journalism. a climate of increasing secrecy, it raises the question of whether the people will be reduced to just getting the official line from the government,” she remarks. Because the leak of the CIA agent's identity came from someone within government who may face criminal charges if identified by Miller or Cooper, the ruling may scare other government officials with important information from speaking with journalists, now unsure whether their anonymity agreements will be honored if challenged in court, believes Kirtley. [...]
[...] However, the Court said that if it did, it was clearly overcome in this case based on the importance of the information, the involvement of a federal crime committed by whoever revealed the identity of the undercover CIA agent, and the inability to obtain the information from anywhere other than the testimony of Miller and Cooper. Analysis The ruling of the Circuit Court holds grim implications for journalists and reporters using confidential sources. While the prosecutor on the case insisted the ruling was not to scare journalists or sources, this reassurance may be ignored. [...]
[...] Few people felt that Miller would reinforce the importance of honoring confidentiality to sources, and “reassure” sources that journalists do intend to uphold confidentiality. The district court asserted that the importance of Miller's testimony lay in the belief that her “testimony was essential and not obtainable elsewhere.” Miller herself said that she does view myself as above the and agreed with the judge's decision to sentence her to jail time. Jane Kirtley, media ethics and law professor at the University of Minnesota, commented in the AP article that this decision could hold chilling effects on the reportage of government information. [...]
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