Magazine reporter gives deposition in CIA leak case

Contempt citation lifted, possible jail time avoided

August 25, 2004|By James Gerstenzang | James Gerstenzang,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Avoiding a clash over the First Amendment and possibly jail time, a reporter for Time has given a deposition to a prosecutor investigating the disclosure of the identity of a CIA operative, the magazine said yesterday.

The reporter, Matthew Cooper, had been ordered by a federal judge to respond to questions posed by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel investigating whether the Bush administration illegally leaked the CIA agent's name.

Shortly after Fitzgerald interviewed Cooper on Monday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan lifted the contempt citation he had issued against the reporter.

The magazine's managing editor, Jim Kelly, said Cooper agreed to the deposition because the official Fitzgerald was asking about, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, had waived any confidentiality agreement with Cooper.

The leak disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent and the wife of a former State Department envoy. The envoy, Joseph Wilson, had been sent by the CIA to Niger to investigate whether Iraq had tried to buy uranium from the African country.

The investigation has raised the potential of a clash among the prosecutor, the courts and several journalists over the extent to which the First Amendment protects reporters from demands that they reveal the identities of sources to whom they have promised confidentiality.

Plame's name was disclosed in a column by Robert Novak that was published July 14, 2003. Three days later, Cooper wrote: "And some government officials have noted to Time in interviews (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

Later in the story, he reported that Libby had spoken to Time "in an exclusive interview" about "the possibility of Iraq trying to acquire uranium from Niger."

Fitzgerald subpoenaed testimony from Cooper and Tim Russert, NBC News' Washington bureau chief, in May. Time and NBC fought the subpoenas, citing the First Amendment, but Hogan denied their bid to avoid testifying.

Russert was interviewed by the prosecutor Aug. 7 and was asked "limited questions" about a telephone conversation that Libby initiated in early July 2003, NBC said.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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