Monday, August 09, 2004

Plame Shocker: Russert, Cooper Must Testify 

Via Zemblan patriot B.K.: Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is plainly dead serious about nailing the senior administration officials who ratted out Valerie Plame:
U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas Hogan rejected requests to quash subpoenas to Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press" and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine for violating their First Amendment rights.

The subpoenas, issued by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, require that Russert and Cooper appear before a federal grand jury to testify about conversations with an unidentified government official who was a confidential source.

In an order on Monday, Hogan said Cooper and Time at a hearing on Friday refused to comply with the subpoena despite his ruling and he held them in civil contempt of court. The ruling was dated July 20, but released on Monday.

The reporter was ordered "confined at a suitable place" and Time was fined $1,000 a day until they complied. The judge did not specify where Cooper would be confined.

Hogan stayed Time's fine and granted Cooper bail while they appeal the contempt finding to the U.S. appeals court. He said the appeals presented "substantial legal questions."

Citing a 1972 Supreme Court ruling, Hogan said a reporter called to testify before a grand jury about confidential information enjoyed no First Amendment protection.

"The information requested from Mr. Cooper and Mr. Russert is very limited, all available alternative means of obtaining the information have been exhausted, the testimony sought is necessary for the completion of the investigation and the testimony sought is expected to constitute direct evidence of innocence or guilt," Hogan wrote.

He ruled that Cooper and Russert have no reporters' privilege, qualified or otherwise, that would excuse them from testifying before the grand jury.

"There have been no allegations whatsoever that this grand jury is acting in bad faith or with the purpose of harassing these two journalists," the judge concluded.
Big question now for the first-amendment absolutists among us: should the boys do jail time to protect a government source who A) fed them bogus information for a B) story neither of them was willing to run with, and in so doing C) probably committed a crime that compromised national security?

(Then there's the other obvious question: not should they, but will they?)

UPDATE: Atrios has this, from the Washington Post:
Sources close to the investigation said they believe Russert was not held in contempt Aug. 6 because he agreed to answer the questions after Hogan's July 20 ruling.

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