"The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, including the right to gather information of interest to the public and, where necessary, to protect the confidentiality of sources.
Time Inc. believes in that guarantee. That is why we have supported from the outset the efforts of TIME magazine reporter Matt Cooper in resisting the Special Counsel's attempts to obtain information regarding Mr. Cooper's confidential sources. Time Inc. and Mr. Cooper have fought this case all the way from the district court to the Supreme Court of the United States.
In this particular case, where national security and the role of a grand jury have been at issue, the Supreme Court chose to let stand the district court's order requiring Time Inc. and Mr. Cooper to comply with the Special Counsel's subpoenas. It did so after the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed that order.
In declining to review the important issues presented by this case, we believe that the Supreme Court has limited press freedom in ways that will have a chilling effect on our work and that may damage the free flow of information that is so necessary in a democratic society. It may also encourage excesses by overzealous prosecutors.
It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court has left uncertain what protections the First Amendment and the federal common law provide journalists and their confidential sources.
It is also worth noting that many foreign governments, including China, Venezuela, and Cameroon, to name a few, refer to U.S. contempt rulings when seeking to justify their own restrictive press laws.
Despite these concerns, Time Inc. shall deliver the subpoenaed records to the Special Counsel in accordance with its duties under the law. The same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts and respect for their rulings and judgments. That Time Inc. strongly disagrees with the courts provides no immunity. The innumerable Supreme Court decisions in which even Presidents have followed orders with which they strongly disagreed evidences that our nation lives by the rule of law and that none of us is above it.
We believe that our decision to provide the Special Prosecutor with the subpoenaed records obviates the need for Matt Cooper to testify and certainly removes any justification for incarceration.
Time Inc.'s decision doesn't represent a change in our philosophy, nor does it reflect a departure from our belief in the need for confidential sources. It does reflect a response to a profound departure from the practice of federal prosecutors when this case is compared with other landmark cases involving confidentiality over the past 30 years. Since the days of Attorney General John Mitchell, the Justice Department has sought confidential sources from reporters as a last resort, not as an easy option. Neither Archibald Cox, the Watergate Special Prosecutor, nor Judge John Sirica sought to force the Washington Post or its reporters to reveal the identity of "Deep Throat," the prized confidential source.
Although we shall comply with the order to turn over the subpoenaed records, we shall continue to support the protection of confidential sources. We do so with the knowledge that forty-nine states and the District of Columbia now recognize some form of protection for confidential sources, and that legislation is now pending in Congress to enact a federal shield law for confidential sources."
To Our Readers:
Pearlstine's comments in the May 23, 2005 issue of TIME
A War on Wilson?
Cooper's July 17, 2003 article on the Plame case