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Justice Department To Probe Source Of CBS News 2004 Report

The ongoing trend of investigators trying to force reporters to give up confidential sources looks like it may end up hitting closer to home for us at Public Eye. Today, Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun reports that a federal judge has ordered a government probe into how CBS News obtained information for a 2004 espionage case. In August of that year, correspondent Lesley Stahl broke a story on an FBI investigation into the transfer of classified information to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (Aipac):
Judge Thomas Ellis III issued the order last week in connection with the prosecution of two former Aipac employees, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman. The two men are facing criminal charges of conspiracy to acquire and disclose classified information.

Judge Ellis instructed the Justice Department "to conduct an investigation into the identity of any government employee responsible for the August 2004 disclosure to CBS News of info. related to the investigation of defendants/whether the investigation relied on info. collected pursuant to" the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to an entry placed on the docket of the Alexandria, Va.-based court yesterday. A more detailed opinion explaining the judge's ruling is under seal.

You can read the entire article for all the details of the story but what worries Lucy Dalglish, executive director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, is what it may potentially mean for CBS journalists:
Ms. Dalglish said the new probe is likely to result in pressure on CBS. "Justice goes back and talks to everyone who had their hands on the FISA warrants and gets affidavits from everyone saying, 'No. It wasn't me,'" she said.

At that point, "The logical investigation is that you would get Lesley Stahl or her producer to identify who their confidential source is," Ms. Dalglish said.

Stahl did not respond to the Sun article and producer Rich Bonin declined to comment to Public Eye on the advice of attorneys. The CBS News press office also had no comment. Keeping in mind the potential legal issues involved, that's not surprising. We'll bring you more updates when developments warrant.
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