July 7th, 2005

When Does a Source Release a Reporter From Confidentiality?

The Los Angeles Times compiles a helpful Q&A (as does the Washington Post). From the Times:

Q: Administration officials signed agreements saying that reporters were free to reveal their identities. Despite that, why won’t reporters name their sources?

A: Miller, Cooper, and other reporters say such “blanket waivers” are not truly voluntary. Officials may have signed them fearing that, if they didn’t, they could be punished or fall under suspicion. Cooper and other journalists said they would talk about their sources only after being convinced that the officials’ willingness to be identified was voluntary, not coerced.

Addendum (7/9/2005): In Matt Cooper’s words:

I am with Judy that these government-issued waivers that the prosecutor has been handing out are not worth the paper they’re written on. . . . It’s coercive. It cannot be considered voluntary.

For C00per, a voluntary waiver must be “specific, personal and unambiguous.”

Addendum (7/15/2005): Floyd Abrams describes the government-issued waivers as “preprinted forms from the Department of Justice that people were instructed to sign by their superiors.”

Another question arises: If Fitzgerald knows who the government officials are, why does he need to question Miller and Cooper?

Answer: To corroborate information he has gathered during his investigation. As a general rule, prosecutors say they would never rely solely on notes taken by someone without also interviewing the note-taker.

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