Time Magazine to Hand Over Plame Notes

Time Magazine to Hand Over Reporter Notes (AP)

Time Inc. said Thursday it would comply with a court order to deliver the notes of a reporter threatened with jail in a probe of the leak of a CIA officer’s name. The New York Times, which is also involved in the dispute, said it was “deeply disappointed” at the move, which came days after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected two journalists’ appeal. U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan is threatening to jail Matthew Cooper, Time’s White House correspondent, and Judith Miller of the Times for contempt for refusing to disclose their sources. Time said it believed its cooperation would make Cooper’s jailing unnecessary. The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the reporters’ appeal and the grand jury investigating the leak expires in October. If jailed, the reporters would be freed at that time.

In a statement, Time, which is a defendant in the case along with the two reporters, said it believes “the Supreme Court has limited press freedom in ways that will have a chilling effect on our work and that may damage the free flow of information that is so necessary in a democratic society.” But it also said that despite its concerns, it will turn over the records to the special counsel investigating the leak. “The same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts and respect for their rulings and judgments. That Time Inc. strongly disagrees with the courts provides no immunity,” the statement said.

Agreed. While the government should give great leeway to reporters, recognizing that anonymity is often a condition for getting at the truth, the principle can’t extend to protecting sources who have committed serious crimes. Client-attorney priviledge is not absolute; nor should journalistic shield laws.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Rhoads says:

    I noticed earlier in the day that the NYT has expressed its displeasure in Time’s decision.

    This is ironic in some ways since the NYT has been a prime mover in trying to minimize the reaches of Executive Privilege over the years. Now that the reaches of Reporter’s privilege has been pretty much settled, it seems to me Time’s approach is the more responsible one.

  2. bryan says:

    Actually, journalistic shield laws are incredibly weak. I was surprised in my graduate media law class when we discussed the topic. And thinking about it, there’s good reason. The overheated rhetoric about “limiting press freedom” doesn’t do anything to address the legitimate concerns raised in the case.

  3. Thanks for posting the article on Time’s decision to disclose the source of the Valerie Plame leak. However, I found the anti-liberal messages on your site unprofessional and offensive. Who benefits from deliberate divisiveness? Those who need enemies to survive?