Q& A

Q& A

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Q: Why was New York Times reporter Judith Miller jailed?

Miller and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper were found in civil contempt of court in Octoberfor defying a federal court judge's order to answer questions in a grand jury investigation. Late last month, their appeals ran out when the Supreme Court refused to hear their case.

Q: Why was Cooper spared jail?

He agreed to testify yesterday after his source called him and specifically released him to answer special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's questions. Over Cooper's objections, Time magazine last week turned over his notes and e-mails to the prosecutor, revealing his sources.

Q: What is Fitzgerald investigating?

Fitzgerald is trying to determine whether a government official violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 by knowingly revealing the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame to the news media. Plame's name was first revealed in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert D. Novak. The column appeared eight days after Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, wrote an opinion piece in the Times accusing the Bush administration of twisting intelligence to justify going to war in Iraq. Wilson has suggested his wife's cover was compromised in retaliation.

Time magazine lawyers have also suggested that Fitzgerald is investigating whether anyone committed perjury during his probe. Fitzgerald has not confirmed that.

Q: Doesn't Fitzgerald know the identities of Miller's and Cooper's sources? Haven't the sources signed waivers that allow the reporters to talk to the prosecutor?

Yes and yes. But Miller, who did some reporting but never wrote a story, says that the waiver is not voluntary under these circumstances and that she is upholding the journalistic principle of never breaking a promise of confidentiality to a source. Cooper said yesterday that he could not be sure that his source had not been pressured to waive confidentiality until the source called him.

Fitzgerald has said the reporters are no longer protecting anyone. Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan, who found the reporters in contempt, has chided them for behaving as if they have a special right not to testify that other citizens do not enjoy. Fitzgerald has raised the possibility of seeking criminal contempt charges against Miller.

At least four reporters -- including Cooper and two Washington Post journalists who were released from confidentiality agreements by their sources -- previously answered limited questions from Fitzgerald.

Q: If Fitzgerald knows who the government officials are, why does he need to question Miller and Cooper?

Some lawyers believe that Fitzgerald wants to corroborate information he has gathered during his investigation. And, as a general rule, prosecutors say they would never rely solely on notes taken by someone without also interviewing the note-taker.

Q: Why isn't Fitzgerald focusing on Novak?

Novak's role in the investigation has never become clear. Many people associated with the case presume he has cooperated in some fashion.

Q: What happens now?

Miller will remain in jail for as long as four months -- the time remaining in the grand jury's term -- or until she agrees to cooperate. Fitzgerald's investigation is continuing, and he will probably wait for some time to see if detention persuades Miller to talk. In court filings, he has indicated that he is ready to wrap up the probe after that.

The grand jury is expected to convene soon to hear Cooper testify.

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