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Reporter Held in Contempt Over C.I.A. Leak

August 9, 2004
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.
why not 09.Aug.2004 17:46

send novack

Novack should be in the hot seat. Thats whom the question should be asked first. Prosecutor
is not so bold so far...

This is what America looks like 09.Aug.2004 17:47

kzoo

"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. "

If anyone has watched Mr. Russert in 'action' they would know he knows nothing other than how to suck up to the right. NBC would be glad for the publicity in this case it helps to make it appear like a news something. Hey, the more the main stream gets arrested the better. And so Mr. Cooper goes to Danbury.

fuck the 1st ammendment. 09.Aug.2004 17:57

do it.

Hey, its a republican who is going to get his ass burned, so fuck the first ammendment. I don't give a shit about republicans, the constitution isn't for them anyway...

I'll glady throw away the 1st. 5th, and 8th ammendments to Burn Karl Rove's ass...

do it 09.Aug.2004 18:21

funny

you should say 'fuck the first amendment' i was just in the act to test something for the sex positive post below.

PS don't use a parchment copy

Patriot Act being used to solve Valerie Plame case 09.Aug.2004 20:52

Raff Ellis

(YellowTimes.org) -- Early on Saturday morning last an elite FBI SWAT team, in an unusual coordination with the CIA, broke down the doors of Vice President Cheney's Blair House residence, overpowering the secret service agents in a well-planned and executed operation, and took the VP into custody. Simultaneously, other teams also apprehended Karl Rove and conservative commentator Robert Novak. Attempts by media and legal representatives to ascertain the charges or whereabouts of the detainees were unsuccessful

Attorney General John Ashcroft was unavailable for comment and speculation indicated that he had barricaded himself at one of the several shadow government bunkers in the hills of Virginia. Reportedly, he had been tipped off by the head of the FBI that the arrests were going to take place and was worried that he was on the list.

FBI and Homeland Security officials would divulge nothing but the terse statement that arrests were made in the interests of national security. "It has to do with a terrorist plot that has endangered many American lives," was the only official comment offered.

Media pundits, using unidentified sources, have determined that the three were captured in response to the outing of Valerie Plame, a CIA undercover agent. It appears the revelation by Novak of Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, he of "yellow cake" fame, was in violation of US Code Section 421 dealing with disclosure of the identities of American covert agents. Although Novak has admitted he was given the information by a "high level" administration source, he heretofore has refused to name that source, claiming First Amendment rights and the protection of confidential sources.

There is some question as to whether American citizens can be apprehended and kept incommunicado but apparently the precedent has been set with several similar security detentions, most notably American citizen Jose Padilla. Even considering the latest Supreme Court ruling, allowing Guantanamo detainees to file writs, it's still up in the air who or what district will have jurisdiction.

"But Padilla is a terrorist," Cheney's aide Scooter Libby screamed at reporters. "This is not fair—what has America come to?" This outburst sent reporters scurrying to research the definitions of terrorist and terrorist acts. Many had not read the Patriot Act and didn't see how that could apply. One newsman commented that the Act was incomprehensible and referred to so many other laws, complete with intricate legal phrasing, that it was well nigh impossible to find an appropriate statute.

Back in their newsrooms, media executives were researching online databases to find precedents that might apply to these arrests. They found several cases where people had disappeared into the maw of the security net that had been cast after the summary passing of the Patriot Act several days after 9/11. But these were all low-level, rather nondescript aliens and naturalized citizens, many of whom have been tried in secret and convicted, or pleaded guilty to plots to blow up bridges or buildings. Editors gave orders to their investigative reporters to unearth the appropriate statutes or legal precedents that might have been used for the arrests.

A short time later, a reporter for the Washington Post found a reference for terrorist definition in US Code, Title 18, Sec.2331, which states: "the term ''domestic terrorism'' means activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State. It appears that the outing of Plame as a covert CIA operative did indeed endanger lives of other CIA agents or their human assets, much the same way the Aldrich Ames treachery did.

Speculation now centers on how the detainees are being treated and whether or not family members will be told where they are or be able to see them. Writs of Habeas Corpus can no longer be used to force the appearance of these men as it was suspended in Section 412 of the Patriot Act, 'Sec. 236A, '(b) "... no court shall have jurisdiction to review, by habeas corpus petition or otherwise, any such action [incarceration] or decision."

Mrs. Cheney, who has been harshly critical of the anti-war movement, decried the heavy-handed way in which her husband was taken into custody. "They didn't knock, just broke down the doors and ordered everyone on the floor," she wailed. "Can you imagine—they put a foul-smelling hood over his head. It's absolutely un-American! Reporters could find no friends or relatives of Karl Rove to be interviewed, lending further credibility to the rumor he may indeed be an alien. Robert Novak's associates, who declined comment on the advice of a phalanx of attorneys, are wary of these developments and the potential application of the same laws against them.

A few pundits speculated that the trio had been spirited off to Guantanamo by government jet because one of the FBI agents was overheard to remark that these people needed to be "Gitmoized." Concern was expressed that the trio might now be undergoing interrogation, using the same "pressure" techniques that Cheney and others had allegedly advocated and approved. "Chances are they have been stripped naked and forced to stand for hours on end, while listening to loud rock music," a military media consultant and panel member on Meet the Press opined. "Just deplorable," said George Will. "What's this country coming to?" On talk radio, Rush Limbaugh was outraged as he announced, "This ain't no fraternity prank, folks, I'll tell you that." Falwell and Robertson also worried out loud that the men might be stripped naked, piled on top of each other and exposed to prostitutes in simulated sex scenes, complete with pictures. "Such humiliation," they exclaimed, "sounds like something the Clinton folks would do.

Pundit speculation has ranged all the way from the three pleading guilty, as in "taking one for the big guy," to turning state's evidence against others in the administration rather than subjecting themselves to indefinite incarceration without recourse or appeal. Many of the cases researched by the press seem to have ended this way.

In any event, the Valerie Plame case is now on its way to resolution. Those who railed against the Patriot Act and the use of "mild" torture as being ineffective are hanging their heads in shame today. Is this a great country or what?

[Raff Ellis lives in the United States and is a retired former computer industry executive. His writing hobby is stimulated by his ceaseless amazement at the truth of two of his favorite quotations: Puck's observation, "What fools these mortals be;" and PT Barnum's, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."]

Raff Ellis encourages your comments:  raff426@yahoo.com

That's my dream feature 09.Aug.2004 22:04

--

If I click my heels three times, can it come true? Thanks Raff!

we already know one key conspirator in this crime 10.Aug.2004 10:41

nobody of significance

Let's see if I get this right. First, Plame was not outed. Then Novak learns this confidential information through his sources, and makes it public info. Now we are wondering who outed her? Well, Novak did, with some help from "two senior administration officials". Being an experienced reporter with ongoing connections to such senior administrative contacts, certainly he would have been aware of the laws and ramifications of such an outing. He even admits to this crime. Is he immune from prosecution simply by being a reporter? Put him on trial. Oh, and he just might start cooperating with the search for those "two senior administration officials" once he is also held responsible.

obsequious Washington insider "journalists" 10.Aug.2004 23:35

ah pook

Tim Russert was only too happy to cooperate with the authorities. What a surprise.