A federal judge in Washington held a reporter for Time magazine in contempt today and ordered him jailed for refusing to name the government officials who disclosed the identity of a C.I.A. agent to him. The magazine was also held in contempt and ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 a day.
The judge, Thomas F. Hogan, suspended both sanctions while Time and its reporter, Matthew Cooper, pursued an appeal.
While the subpoena battle is only one aspect of a politically charged grand jury investigation that has repeatedly reached into the White House, it nevertheless represents the most significant clash between federal prosecutors and the press since the 1970's.
Legal experts, including some sympathetic to the journalists' arguments, said the appeals court is unlikely to reverse Judge Hogan's decision.
"I think Matt Cooper is going to jail," said Lucy Dalglish, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
The grand jury is to determine who told Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist, the identity of the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Plame.
Ms. Plame is married to Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who asserted in an op-ed article in The New York Times on July 6, 2003, that President Bush had relied on discredited intelligence when he said, in his 2003 State of the Union address, that Iraq had sought to acquire uranium from Niger.
On July 14, 2003, Mr. Novak disclosed in his column that Ms. Plame "is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction" and that "two senior administration officials" had told him that she was the person who suggested sending him to Africa.
Disclosing the identity of a covert C.I.A. officer can be a crime.
Mr. Wilson has suggested that the White House may have leaked his wife's name as retribution for his criticism.
It is not known whether Mr. Novak has received a subpoena or, if he did, how he responded. His lawyer, James Hamilton, declined to comment today.
Tim Russert, of NBC's "Meet the Press," was subpoenaed in the investigation along with Mr. Cooper. In a decision dated July 20, 2004, but made public today, Judge Hogan ordered both Mr. Russert and Mr. Cooper to testify before the grand jury investigation.
Mr. Cooper refused, leading to today's contempt order. Mr. Russert, on the other hand, agreed to cooperate with the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
In a statement, NBC said Mr. Russert was interviewed under oath by prosecutors on Saturday. NBC said Mr. Russert had not been a recipient of the leak and was not asked questions that would have required him to disclose a confidential source.
"The questioning focused," NBC reported, "on what Russert said when Lewis `Scooter' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, phoned him last summer. Russert told the special prosecutor that at the time of the conversation he didn't know Plame's name or that she was a C.I.A. operative and did not provide that information to Libby."
A spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald declined to comment on any aspect of the investigation.
A reporter for The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, submitted to a similar interview in June. The Post reported at the time that he also testified about conversations with Mr. Libby and that he did so without violating any promises to confidential sources.