News outlets resist Scooter Libby subpoenas
WASHINGTON, Apr 19 (Reuters) A former White House aide fighting perjury charges should not get access to reporters' notes and other newsroom material because they have no relevance to his case, several news outlets told a US judge.
The New York Times, NBC News and Time magazine also argued yesterday that press freedom would be damaged if they were forced to hand over the material sought by former vice presidential aide Lewis ''Scooter'' Libby's defense team.
Libby is charged with lying to investigators as they sought to determine who leaked the identity of a CIA official after her husband accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence to build its case for invading Iraq.
His defense team has subpoenaed four reporters and their employers in an effort to show that CIA operative Valerie Plame was widely known to be the wife of the administration critic, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, before her identity was made public by conservative columnist Robert Novak in July 2003.
The news organizations said yesterday that Libby does not have a right to material that goes beyond the conversations with reporters cited in his indictment.
''Although Mr. Libby has claimed a right to know what information the press corps in general possessed concerning Mrs. Wilson's affiliation with the CIA, under that theory he would be entitled to subpoena all reporters in Washington to learn what they knew and when they knew it,'' Time magazine said in its filing to the US court in Washington.
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald relied on reporters' testimony to bring perjury charges against Libby last fall after an appeals court ordered them to cooperate. Reporter Judith Miller, then of the New York Times, spent 85 days in jail before agreeing to testify.
The Times said it would provide documents or statements Miller made about her conversations with Libby if she were to be called as a government witness during the trial. But the newspaper said that material from other employees has no direct bearing on the case.
Time magazine said the Libby defense team already has the same material that its reporter Matthew Cooper provided to the prosecution, and has no legitimate reason to demand material from other reporters at the magazine.
NBC said nobody at the company, including reporters Tim Russert and Andrea Mitchell, has any documents relevant to the perjury charges.
REUTERS SC PM0540