Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Media Lawyers Oppose Libby Document Search

Lawyers for NBC News, the New York Times and Time Inc. accused a former White House aide yesterday of threatening the integrity of their news gathering operations by seeking access to a wide range of documents in the CIA leak case.

The media lawyers, in separate filings, said I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, is on a "fishing expedition" with his request for documents from the news organizations. They are asking U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton to block seven subpoenas seeking access to drafts of news articles, e-mails and notes generated by any and all of the news organizations' employees -- not just the three reporters involved in the case.

Libby, 55, is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to the FBI and a federal grand jury about how he learned about CIA operative Valerie Plame and what he subsequently told reporters about her.

Libby's defense team has issued subpoenas seeking all documents prepared or received by any employee of NBC News, the Times and Time that refer to Plame and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, before Robert D. Novak's column naming Plame was published. The subpoenas also seek drafts of articles, including those that were not published; communications between reporters and editors; and e-mail exchanges among any reporters about Plame or Wilson.

Media lawyers argue that documents generated by other reporters are irrelevant and turning them over would violate the First Amendment's protections for the press.

If Libby is permitted access to all that he seeks, lawyers for the newspaper said, it would cause "an immediate and chilling effect on the New York Times' news gathering activities." Sources would become reluctant to talk or allow their interviews to be recorded. And reporters would begin to maintain -- or not maintain -- notes with an eye toward possible litigation, they said.

The Times lawyers also said Libby is improperly seeking documents pertaining to reporters and editors who will not be called as witnesses. Judith Miller, who spent 85 days in jail last year refusing to testify about what Libby told her, is the only Times employee expected to testify for the prosecution, the newspaper's lawyers said.

FDA Names Seligman to New Drug Safety Post

The Food and Drug Administration named agency official Paul Seligman to a new post overseeing U.S. drug safety after years of criticism from lawmakers and consumer groups for lax regulation.

Seligman, 55, will be associate director for safety policy and communication in the agency's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, which approves and monitors medicines. The FDA said Seligman would oversee issues including policy and information that the FDA collects and provides to the public.

Members of Congress and consumer advocates say the FDA has not done enough to protect consumers from the risks of prescription drugs such as the Vioxx painkiller that Merck & Co. voluntarily withdrew from the market in 2004. Some lawmakers, including Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), also have criticized its handling of safety risks associated with drugs for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

For the Record

· A Pennsylvania congressman is pushing a bill that would posthumously award a Congressional Gold Medal to the passengers and crew members killed aboard United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001. Rep. William Shuster, a Republican whose district contains Shanksville, where the plane crashed in a field, said their fight to bring down the plane may have prevented hijackers from crashing it into the Capitol or White House.

· World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz, working with poor countries on programs to thwart bird flu, said a worldwide outbreak would disrupt the global economy in addition to causing a devastating loss of life. The World Bank has set up a $500 million pool to help poor countries combat the bird flu.

-- From News Services

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