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Journalists facing jail

From the "Wolf Blitzer Reports" staff

Wolf Blitzer Reports
Crime, Law and Justice
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
White House

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The case grew out of a 2003 report by Robert Novak, a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times as well as a co-host of CNN's "Crossfire."

The column concerned former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, and it revealed that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative.

"In July, I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson's report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction. Another senior official told me the same thing," Novak said in September 2003.

Wilson claims administration officials deliberately leaked his wife's name in retaliation for his criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

"I believe it came out of the White House and I have sources who have told me that," Wilson said in September 2003.

It's a crime to leak the identity of an undercover intelligence officer, and U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was named to investigate. His team has interviewed high-ranking administration officials up to and including President Bush.

"If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is, and if that person has violated law, it will be taken care of," Bush said in September 2003.

Prosecutors subpoenaed journalists to testify before a grand jury.

Two reporters -- Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, which like CNN is a Time Warner company -- appealed a court order that they identify their sources.

The reporters claimed they have a First Amendment right to keep their sources confidential.

But now in a unanimous ruling, a three-judge U.S. appeals court panel has disagreed.

The judges flatly stated that in a grand jury proceeding: "There is no First Amendment privilege protecting the information sought."

Attorney Floyd Abrams, representing the two reporters, said the panel's decision "strikes a heavy blow against the public's right to be informed about its government."

Abrams says he will appeal the ruling to the full court.

Fitzgerald applauded the judges' decision, saying, "We look forward to resuming our progress on this investigation and bringing it to a quick conclusion."

Miller and Cooper face 18-month prison sentences unless the court's order is overturned.

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