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Context of 'December 2004: Reporter Retains First Amendment Lawyer, Fears Jail Time'

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At the behest of President Nixon (see June 15, 1971), the Justice Department files a motion with the US District Court in New York requesting a temporary restraining order and an injunction against the New York Times to prevent further publication of articles stemming from the “Pentagon Papers” (see June 13, 1971). The landmark case of New York Times Company v. United States begins. The government’s argument is based on the assertion that the publication of the documents jeopardizes national security, makes it more difficult to prosecute the Vietnam War, and endangers US intelligence assets. The Times will base its defense on the principles embodied in the First Amendment, as well as the argument that just because the government claims that some materials are legitimately classified as top secret, this does not mean they have to be kept out of the public eye; the Times will argue that the government does not want to keep the papers secret to protect national security, but instead to protect itself from embarrassment and possible criminal charges. The court grants the temporary restraining order request, forcing the Times to temporarily stop publishing excerpts from the documents. [Herda, 1994; Moran, 2007]

Entity Tags: New York Times, Richard M. Nixon, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Nixon and Watergate

On December 3, 2001, New York Times reporter Judith Miller telephones officials with the Holy Land Foundation charity in Texas and asks them to comment about what she says is a government raid on the charity planned for the next day. Then in a December 4, 2001, New York Times article, Miller writes that President Bush is about to announce that the US is freezing the assets of Holy Land and two other financial groups, all for supporting Hamas. US officials will later argue that Miller’s phone call and article “increased the likelihood that the foundation destroyed or hid records before a hastily organized raid by agents that day.” Later in the month, a similar incident occurs. On December 13, New York Times reporter Philip Shenon telephones officials at the Global Relief Foundation in Illinois and asks them to comment about an imminent government crackdown on that charity. The FBI learns that some Global Relief employees may be destroying documents. US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald had been investigating the charities. He had been wiretapping Global Relief and another charity in hopes of learning evidence of criminal activity, but after the leak he changes plans and carries out a hastily arranged raid on the charity the next day (see December 14, 2001). Fitzgerald later seeks records from the New York Times to find out who in the Bush administration leaked information about the upcoming raids to Miller and Shenon. However, in 2005 Fitzgerald will lose the case. It is still not known who leaked the information to the New York Times nor what their motives were. Ironically, Fitzgerald will succeed in forcing Miller to reveal information about her sources in another extremely similar legal case in 2005 involving the leaking of the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame. [New York Times, 12/4/2001; New York Times, 12/15/2001; Washington Post, 9/10/2004; Washington Post, 2/25/2005] The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that in addition to the above cases, “press leaks plagued almost every [raid on Muslim charities] that took place in the United States” after 9/11. [Washington Post, 9/10/2004]

Entity Tags: Philip Shenon, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Judith Miller, Hamas, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Federal Bureau of Investigation, George W. Bush, Global Relief Foundation, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Judge Thomas Hogan holds New York Times reporter Judith Miller in contempt for refusing to answer a subpoena from the grand jury investigating the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA identity (see August 12, 2004 and After). [Washington Post, 7/3/2007; Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 11/19/2009] Hogan orders Miller jailed for up to 18 months after she informs him she will not answer questions from special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald about her conversations with officials. In turn, Hogan says Miller has no special right as a reporter to defy a subpoena in a criminal investigation. Hogan rules that he is satisfied Fitzgerald has exhausted other avenues of determining key information about the Plame Wilson identity leak, and that his questioning of journalists is a last resort rather than a “fishing expedition,” as the Times has argued. “The special counsel has made a limited, deferential approach to the press in this matter,” Hogan says. He goes on to note that journalists’ promise to protect their sources is outweighed by the government’s duty to investigate a serious crime. In a 1972 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment does not protect reporters called before a criminal grand jury. “We have a classic confrontation between conflicting interests,” Hogan says. Miller remains free on bond while the Times appeals his decision. After the ruling, Miller tells a group of reporters: “It’s really frightening when journalists can be put in jail for doing their job effectively. This is about all journalists and about all government officials who provide information on the promise of confidentiality. Without that, they won’t come forward, and the public won’t be informed.” Times executive editor Bill Keller says he is disturbed that Bush administration officials had been asked by their superiors in this case to sign waivers of confidentiality agreements with reporters (see January 2-5, 2004). “This is going to become all the rage in corporate and government circles,” he says. “It’s really spooky.” [CBS News, 10/7/2004; Washington Post, 10/8/2004]

Entity Tags: Judith Miller, Bill Keller, Thomas Hogan, Bush administration (43), Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Judge Thomas Hogan holds Time reporter Matthew Cooper in contempt for refusing to answer a subpoena from the grand jury investigating the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA identity (see September 13, 2004). [Washington Post, 7/3/2007; Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 11/19/2009]

Entity Tags: Thomas Hogan, Matthew Cooper

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Miller, Abrams, and Cooper speak to reporters during the Libby investigation.Miller, Abrams, and Cooper speak to reporters during the Libby investigation. [Source: Life magazine]Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter held in contempt for failing to obey a subpoena to testify before the Patrick Fitzgerald grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson identity leak (see October 7, 2004), tells her husband that she may go to jail. “Something bad is happening,” Miller tells Jason Epstein, her husband and a founder of the New York Review of Books. “I think I might be going to jail.” Epstein replies, “Going to jail—that can’t be right.” Miller says, “That is where this is going to lead.” Trying to lighten the mood, Epstein retorts, “Well, if that’s the case, get a lawyer from the Yellow Pages so it won’t cost so much.” Miller says she already has a lawyer, renowned First Amendment advocate Floyd Abrams. With another lawyer, Abrams had represented the Times in the Pentagon Papers case of 1971 (see June 15, 1971), and he helped to forge case law protecting journalists from being compelled to reveal their sources. Abrams is already representing another Times reporter, Philip Shenon, against Fitzgerald in the case of Shenon’s reporting on an FBI raid of two Muslim charities accused of supporting terrorism (see December 3-14, 2001). He is also defending two more Times reporters, James Risen and Jeff Gerth, in a privacy lawsuit filed by nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, who is accusing the reporters of inaccurate and defamatory reporting. And he is representing Time Magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who is also facing a subpoena from the Fitzgerald investigation (see October 13, 2004). Abrams has asked Fitzgerald to steer clear of subpoenaing reporters such as Miller and Cooper, fearing the effect those subpoenas might have on investigative reporting if successful. Fitzgerald told Abrams that he had thought through the issue, and was prepared to compel their testimony through the entire judicial system. [Vanity Fair, 4/2006]

Entity Tags: New York Times, Floyd Abrams, Jason Epstein, Matthew Cooper, Judith Miller

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Eve Burton, the general counsel for the Hearst Corporation, says the success of the subpoenas and compelled testimony levied against reporters in the Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see August 7, 2004, August 9, 2004, August 9, 2004, August 12, 2004 and After, August 24, 2004, September 13, 2004, September 15, 2004, October 7, 2004, October 13, 2004, December 2004, February 15, 2005, June 27, 2005, July 1, 2005, July 6, 2005, July 6, 2005, July 11, 2005, July 13, 2005, September 15, 2005, September 29, 2005, September 30, 2005, October 7, 2005, October 12, 2005, November 14, 2005, November 16-17, 2005, and January 20, 2006) has been chilling for reporters. She calls recent developments “troubling,” and continues, “From July to December [2005] we had 42 subpoenas, eight times the number we got in the same six-month period last year.” The language in all the court cases and filings “either invoke[s] the Plame case or they say that now all the rules have changed.” Burton blames the Bush Justice Department in part for the trend, saying: “It is clearly a political decision coming out of the Bush Justice Department to go after the press in this country. In our 42 subpoenas, they will come after anything and everything—B roll at the TV stations, for example. Basic general assignment reporting. A call will come in from the government: ‘I understand you took footage of Joe Blow!’ And the reporter at a station, usually inexperienced, will say, ‘No, we did not take any footage.’ Then we will end up having fights in court with the prosecutor about what constitutes a waiver.” The subpoenas at Hearst, Burton says, involve broadcast stations and newspapers all over the country. “Typically, it is non-published and confidential material” being subpoenaed, she says. “This is the danger of making the press the investigative arm for the government.” Burton and Hearst are fighting every subpoena, no matter how seemingly minor. Burton does not blame special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald as much as she blames the increasing lackadaisical attitude of the press itself. “The media has taken its responsibility to fight these subpoenas too loosely,” she says. “When we were fighting every single battle, we were doing better. Then we went through a time when we started to make deals. When you start making deals, you empower people to come after you. It is as simple as that.” [Vanity Fair, 4/2006]

Entity Tags: Eve Burton, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, US Department of Justice, Hearst Corporation

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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