New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent almost three months in jail in 2005 because she refused to identify the source who leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has raised the prospect that more journalists will have to make the same decision Miller did — out the source or go to jail — when he said the Justice Department is “reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas” as part of the Trump administration’s effort to crack down on leaks, the Washington Post reports.
“I’ve listened to our career investigators, FBI agents and others, and our prosecutors about how to most successfully investigate and prosecute these matters,” Sessions said Friday. “At their suggestion, one of the things we are doing is reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas. We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited. They cannot place lives at risk with impunity.” President Trump has accused Sessions of not doing enough to plug leaks. It’s ironic that journalists’ top defender against subpoenas that would require them to reveal sources was Vice President Pence, who as a congressman and in 2007 proposed a federal shield law to protect journalists. Miller was not in danger of prosecution. The Pentagon Papers Supreme Court case established the right of reporters to publish classified information provided to them. The person on the giving end of the leak was in legal jeopardy. Miller’s source, “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Richard Cheney’s chief of staff, released her from their confidentiality agreement and was convicted in 2007 on charges related to the leak.