Saturday, December 23, 2006

Media Wants Fitzgerald Statements On Reason For Reporters' Subpoenas

Justice Department guidelines for U.S. Attorneys say that issuing subpoenas to reporters to divulge their sources is an extreme measure to be done only when there is no other way to obtain the needed information.

Two news organizations are asking a federal judge to unseal documents in the CIA leak case, arguing that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald never needed the testimony of reporters because he knew the source of the leak all along.

The Associated Press and Dow Jones, in court papers filed this week, asked for the release of the sworn statements Fitzgerald gave to justify subpoenas for New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.

Fitzgerald wanted the reporters help in his investigation of the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

Miller spent 85 days in jail in 2005 for refusing to testify. Cooper testified under a court order.

"Recently the public learned that the special counsel's pursuit of those reporters was entirely unnecessary for him to determine who leaked Ms. Plame's name to Mr. Novak," lawyers for the news services wrote.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has acknowledged being Novak's source but said it was a passing, inadvertent conversation. He also said he told Fitzgerald about the conversation as soon as the investigation began.

Lawyers for the news organizations said the public has the right to know why, despite that knowledge, Fitzgerald testified that he needed the testimony of reporters to continue the investigation. The only way to know that, the lawyers argued, is to unseal Fitzgerald's affidavits and the court's full legal opinion on the issue.

Of course, Fitzgerald may have wanted to see who -- if anyone -- else was peddling Plame's identity around to members of the Washington press corps.

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