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Appeals court rejects reporters' appeal

Time, New York Times seek Supreme Court review

From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Judith Miller
Matthew Cooper
Robert Novak

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The full federal appeals court in Washington Tuesday rejected a request from two journalists facing possible jail sentences who had asked the court to reconsider a decision by a three-judge panel.

Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of The New York Times had asked the entire appeals court to hear their contempt case, after they refused to divulge their sources to the prosecutor investigating another reporter's leak of the name of an undercover Central Intelligence Agency operative.

Cooper and Miller could face up to 18 months in jail for failing to reveal their confidential sources to a federal grand jury.

"We are disappointed with the court's decision, and we will seek a stay in order to have sufficient time to seek U.S. Supreme Court review," New York Times spokesman Toby Usnik said.

"We are disappointed but not surprised by the decision," said Time spokeswoman Diana Pearson. She added that the publication will also seek a stay of the penalties and ask the Supreme Court to hear an appeal.

Justice Department special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been investigating the source of a leak of the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame to news reporters.

Plame's identity was revealed in a July 2003 newspaper column by Robert Novak, also a CNN commentator, who cited two senior Bush administration officials.

In a 2003 op-ed piece in The New York Times, Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, sharply criticized President Bush's claim in his State of the Union address that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium in Niger.

The CIA had sent Wilson, a former ambassador, to Niger in 2002 to investigate, and he had reported back that Baghdad hadn't purchased uranium yellowcake, which can be used to develop enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.

Wilson accused the White House of using discredited intelligence to justify the invasion in Iraq. He said the leak about his wife was in retaliation for his criticism.

Cooper wrote an article about Novak's disclosure of Plame's identity; Miller researched the topic but did not write about it.

Novak and his attorney have refused to say whether the columnist was subpoenaed or testified before the grand jury.

Recently, Fitzgerald said in court papers his work was done except for resolving the issue of the two reporters' testimony.

Last week, Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee wrote Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking him to "provide an explanation as to why no charges have been brought" against government officials who leaked Plame's name.

In response, Gonzales said he is confident that Fitzgerald is "proceeding on a basis that he thinks is appropriate and that at the appropriate time the matter will come to a head."

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