Two reporters who refused to name sources to a grand jury investigating the disclosure of the identity of a covert C.I.A. officer should be jailed for contempt, the Washington, D.C.-based federal appeals court ruled yesterday, says the New York Times. The judges said the reporters, Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, may have witnessed a federal crime – the disclosure by government officials of the officer’s identity. The First Amendment does not give reporters the right to refuse to cooperate with grand juries investigating such crimes, said the court.
The decision was based on the 1972 Supreme Court case of Branzburg v. Hayes, in which a reporter was ordered to testify about witnessing the production of illegal drugs. The reporters will remain free as their news organizations seek a rehearing and, failing that, ask the Supreme Court to hear the case. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, said, “We will challenge today’s decision and advocate for a federal shield law that will enable the public to continue to learn about matters that directly affect their lives.”