July, 2005: Two American journalists from the venerable New York Times and Time magazine are likely to find themselves behind bars in a short while, if the prosecutor in the case has his way.
Matthew Cooper of Time and Judith Miller of New York Times are facing contempt court charges for refusing to disclose their sources, who the prosecution says helped a crime.
The story starts with the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative. The identity of CIA operatives is a state secret in the US and disclosing their names is a crime. Valerie Plame's name was revealed as a CIA operative in a newspaper report two years back. Her name first came up in a newspaper column by Robert Novak. The authorities suspect that the two reporters have information about who leaked the name of Plame.
The two reporters have refused to disclose the names of their sources who leaked the Valerie's name to them, citing the First Amendment of the US Constitution. In the meantime, Time has turned over Matthew Cooper's notebook on the issue to investigating officer Patrick Fitzgerald.
The two journalists may face up to 120 days in prison for contempt of court. Both have pleaded for protection under the First Amendment, which the US Supreme Court has rejected. Time magazine too has said that "journalists are not above law." However, the two journalists have refused to budge.
Yesterday, the two journalists sought to be detained at home and not a prison term, if punishment was unavoidable. However, prosecution has rejected this, saying the prison sentence is to force compliance of the court order "not for a forced home vacation."
Even though, Cooper's diaries have turned over, the reporter himself must testify. Fitzgerald has insisted.
After reviewing the documents provided by Time Inc., Cooper's testimony remains necessary for the investigation," said Patrick Fitzgerald in a court filing.
The court is expected to pronounce its final verdict on the punishment for the reporters as early as today.