WASHINGTON — Two reporters facing jail for refusing to divulge their sources about the leak of an undercover CIA officer's name lost Tuesday in federal court for the third time.
The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined to reconsider a three-judge panel's ruling compelling Time magazine's Matthew Cooper and the New York Times' Judith Miller to testify before a federal grand jury about their confidential sources or go to jail for up to 18 months.
Both publications will ask the appeals court to put off any sanctions while they pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court.
"We are disappointed with the court's decision," Times spokesman Toby Usnik said.
Chicago U.S. Atty. Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a special prosecutor in the case, has said the reporters' refusal to identify their sources has stalled his investigation into who revealed the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame.
Disclosure of an undercover intelligence officer's identity can be a federal crime if prosecutors can show the leak was intentional and that the person who released the information knew of the officer's secret status.
U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan held the reporters in contempt in October, rejecting their argument that the 1st Amendment shielded them from revealing their sources.
Neither Cooper nor Miller wrote the original story that identified Plame. Her name was first published in a 2003 column by Robert Novak, who cited two unidentified senior Bush administration officials as his sources. It is unclear whether Novak has cooperated with the investigation or whether the grand jury has returned indictments. The column appeared after Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, wrote an opinion piece criticizing the administration's claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger.
Cooper reported on the Plame controversy. Miller gathered material about Plame but never had a story about the matter published.