Reporters for the New York Times and Washington Post are asking a federal judge today to void subpoenas that could force them to identify confidential sources who may have revealed the identity of an undercover CIA operative, USA Today reports. Judith Miller of the Times and Walter Pincus of the Post argue that they should not have to answer questions from a special prosecutor about which Bush administration officials may have illegally revealed the identity of undercover agent Valerie Plame.
Journalists say the case is part of a troubling trend: threatening of reporters with fines or jail time if they refuse to make confidential sources available to prosecutors or attorneys involved in lawsuits. This year, six journalists in two cases other than Plame’s have been cited for contempt. Five are appealing; the sixth, a television reporter in Providence, has been paying a $1,000-a-day fine since Aug. 12. “It’s insane, I’ve never seen a summer like it,” said Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which offers legal assistance to journalists. “It’s unprecedented to have this many (cases) hit at once.” She says the trend appears to be driven in part by the federal government’s post-9/11 emphasis on secrecy. “To a degree, we’ve brought some of this on ourselves, with an over-reliance on anonymous and confidential sources,” says editor Rem Rieder of the American Journalism Review.