AJR  Features
From AJR,   February/March 2005

Reporters Under Fire   

By Rachel Smolkin

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   »  Under Fire

July 6, 2003: Former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV writes an op-ed piece in the New York Times arguing the Bush administration exaggerated the Iraqi threat.

July 14, 2003: Syndicated columnist Robert Novak publishes a column identifying Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA "operative" and writes, "Two senior administration officials told me his wife suggested sending Wilson to Niger."

August 8, 2003: Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago writes an opinion dismissing the notion of a federal reporter's privilege in cases involving nonconfidential sources and questions the idea even in instances involving confidential sources.

October 9, 2003: U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson in Washington, D.C., orders five reporters to reveal their confidential sources for nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee's civil suit against the government.

August 6, 2004: U.S. District Court Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan in Washington, D.C., orders Time magazine's Matthew Cooper jailed and fines the magazine $1,000 a day until he agrees to testify. Cooper, held in contempt of court, is free pending his appeal. On August 24, Cooper reaches an agreement with prosecutors to testify about conversations with an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, but he is subpoenaed again September 14.

August 18, 2004: Judge Jackson holds five journalists in contempt of court for refusing to reveal confidential sources in Lee's suit against the government and fines each $500 per day. He does not enforce the fine pending the reporters' appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

September 28, 2004: The New York Times sues in federal court in Manhattan to stop federal prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald from examining telephone records of two Times reporters, Judith Miller and Philip Shenon. Fitzgerald informed the Times in early September that his Chicago office had subpoenaed the reporters' telephone records from the Times' telephone company.

October 7, 2004: Hogan holds Miller in contempt in connection with the Plame investigation. Her incarceration of up to 18 months is suspended pending appeal.

October 13, 2004: Hogan holds Cooper in contempt for a second time, orders him jailed and fines Time $1,000 per day. His punishment is suspended pending appeal.

November 17, 2004: The Denver Post is subpoenaed by a U.S. Air Force Court for notes of interviews with an alleged rape victim.

November 18, 2004: Reporter Jim Taricani of WJAR-TV in Providence is convicted of criminal contempt for refusing to disclose the source who gave him an FBI tape of an aide to the former mayor accepting a bribe.

December 3, 2004: The Denver Post subpoena is withdrawn after criminal charges in the rape case are dropped.

December 8, 2004: A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit hears an appeal from Cooper and Miller.

December 9, 2004: Taricani is sentenced to six months of home confinement. U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres rules that Taricani, a heart-transplant recipient, deserves to go to prison but will be confined at home because of health problems.

Week of December 13, 2004: News organizations begin to receive subpoenas to turn over any information they received from federal employees on bioweapons expert Steven J. Hatfill.

May 9, 2005: Arguments are scheduled before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on Jackson's order holding journalists in contempt.