Neither the constitutional right of freedom of the press nor federal law shields journalists from testifying to a federal grand jury about confidential sources, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said.The paper has pledged to appeal the ruling but it appears likely both reporters will face the same decision Miller had to make. Does the fact that this case involves a federal grand jury make any difference? Should this be treated any differently than the Miller case? Clarification: While both cases involved a federal grand jury, Miller was jailed for refusing to testify before one. The Chronicle reporters are being threatened with jail if they refuse to reveal the sources that provided them secret grand jury testimony, information they later reported. The question is what, if any, difference does that distinction make?
"The court finds itself bound by the law to subordinate (the reporters') interests to the interests of the grand jury'' in discovering the source of the leaks, White wrote. "The grand jury is inquiring into matters that involve a legitimate need of law enforcement.''
It may not seem as dramatic or important to the First Amendment cause as the scenes of Judith Miller going to jail rather than reveal her sources in the Valerie Plame investigation, but a federal judge's order involving two San Francisco Chronicle reporters should cause the same red lights to flash. The reporters, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, were responsible for breaking one of the most important sports stories in recent memory when they got a hold of material from a federal grand jury that exposed the Balco scandal and implicated baseball slugger Barry Bonds in the steroid story. A federal judge has ordered the two reporters to reveal their sources for the grand jury material or go to jail. From today's Chronicle story:
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