This week, the U.S. Circuit Court in Washington D.C. denied the appeals of Time Magazine's Matt Cooper and The New York Times' Judith Miller, both convicted of contempt last year after refusing to divulge their sources to a grand jury. Bob and Brooke reflect on the latest developments in the case, with the help of New York Times legal reporter Adam Liptak.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield, with an update. This week, the US Circuit Court in Washington, DC denied the appeal of Matt Cooper of Time Magazine and Judith Miller of the New York Times, both found guilty of contempt last year, after refusing to cooperate with a grand jury. Their crime? Declining to divulge the identity of that senior government official who leaked the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Plame is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the Bush administration of using faulty intelligence to bolster its case for war in Iraq. Many believe the White House sought to punish Wilson by outing Plame. Meanwhile, Cooper and Miller have run out of options, except one, and the New York Times legal reporter Adam Liptak says that's a long shot.
ADAM LIPTAK: Even should the Supreme Court take the case, it's an uphill fight for Matt Cooper and Judy Miller, because there's no particular reason to think the Supreme Court wants to turn itself around from its 1972 decision declining to recognize a privilege for reporters facing grand jury questions.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The 1972 precedent, decided 5 to 4, includes a brief concurring opinion that calls for weighing the seriousness of the investigation against the possible harm to press freedom. Although journalists have successfully seized on this ambiguity in the past, Liptak says it may not work in this case.
ADAM LIPTAK: Because, unfortunately for them, they are confronted with just about the worst imaginable facts. They are essentially eyewitnesses to the crime of someone disclosing the identity of an undercover CIA agent, or at least that's the prosecutor's theory.
BOB GARFIELD: This is all bound to remain in the realm of theory, unless Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald actually determines a crime has been committed.
ADAM LIPTAK: It's more likely that he's not been able to prove that anyone violated a law, and if that's the case, it sure seems like a terrible irony that two reporters who were not the people who initially disclosed Valerie Plame's identity - Bob Novak initially disclosed it - should be going to jail in an investigation that might never lead to anyone being prosecuted for a crime.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Miller and Cooper face 18 months behind bars - a sentence that could begin as soon as next week. But their notebooks remain closed, and which senior government scoundrel leaked the name of Valerie Plame remains unknown.
BOB GARFIELD: And this correction: in our interview last week about the public's waning interest in the Michael Jackson case, Brooke mentioned that Court TV was offering re-enactments of the trial. Andie Silvers, who manages daytime publicity for the channel, says we got that wrong. She writes: "While Court TV is covering the Michael Jackson trial, the E! Entertainment Television Network is actually providing re-enactments - not Court TV. Thank you."
BROOKE GLADSTONE: No, Andie, thank you. Keep those corrections and comments coming to firstname.lastname@example.org, and please don't forget to tell us where you live, and how to pronounce your name. [MUSIC]
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