Jail for journalists in Plame case?

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has called for a "coordinated effort" to pass a federal shield law protecting journalists from revealing confidential sources in the wake of the unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That ruling denied an appeal from Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, who were ordered jailed last fall for up to 18 months for refusing to disclose sources that leaked to them the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Lawyers for both plan to appeal, likely delaying any jail time for at least several weeks or months.

"The decision in this case underscores that these are perilous times for journalists and the public’s right to know," said Lucy Dalglish, the Reporters Committee executive director. "There are more than two dozen cases pending across the United States where journalists are being asked to operate as investigators for the government and litigants. The ability of the media to act as independent sources of information for the public is in jeopardy." (Editor & Publisher, Feb. 16)

The case concerns possible government retaliation after Plame’s husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, headed a fact-finding mission to Africa that cast doubt on White House allegations that Saddam Hussein sought to purchase uranium from Niger. See WW4 REPORT #94.

The case may also have implications for WW4 REPORT, which has been threatened by the Justice Department to turn over materials related to an interview with Lynne Stewart, the activist attorney recently convicted on terrorist conspiracy charges. See WW4 REPORT #93.