Journalists need to protect their sources

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

New York Times reporter Judith Miller never wrote a story, never published a word, about CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Yet Miller could now face jail time just for doing her job as a journalist &045; gathering information.

Miller and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper were left to twist in the wind Monday by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear their appeal of contempt of court charges.

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Prosecutors want the journalists to testify about who in the Bush administration gave them information on Plame, whose identity was unmasked in a Robert Novak column.

Miller and Cooper have been held in contempt for refusing to reveal their sources to a grand jury.

Imagine this scenario three decades ago, when Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein &045; and many others &045; were trying to ferret out information about the corrupt Nixon White House.

What if Woodward and Bernstein had been forced to reveal the identity of Deep Throat, or jailed because they wouldn’t?

Anonymous sources are used, for the most part, very carefully among reputable journalists.

And journalists need to know they can protect those sources &045; especially when the very government they are often investigating is the government trying to compel them to testify about the sources.

The Newspaper Association of America is urging Congress to enact protections for journalists in these situations. We hope that they will. Every state but one protects journalists from naming anonymous sources. It’s a protection that journalists need in order to best serve the public interest.