Both reporters faced threats of jail time source in a protracted First Amendment wrangle with the government.
Cooper told U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan that he would now cooperate with a federal prosecutor's investigation because his source gave him specific authority to discuss their conversation. "I am prepared to testify. I will comply" with the court's order, Cooper told Hogan.
Cooper's turnaround came at a hearing at which Hogan was to consider whether to jail Cooper and Miller for defying his order to testify about their confidential sources in the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.
Cooper took the podium in the court and told the judge, "Last night I hugged my son good-bye and told him it might be a long time before I see him again."
"I went to bed ready to accept the sanctions" for not testifying, Cooper said. But he told the judge that not long before his early afternoon appearance, he had received "in somewhat dramatic fashion" a direct personal communication from his source freeing him from his commitment to keep the source's identity secret.
Hogan held the reporters in civil contempt of court in October, rejecting their argument that the First Amendment shielded them from revealing their sources. Last month the Supreme Court refused to intervene.
In court documents filed Tuesday, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald urged Hogan to take the unusual step of jailing the reporters, saying that may be the only way to get them to talk.
"Journalists are not entitled to promise complete confidentiality — no one in America is," Fitzgerald wrote.
Fitzgerald had disclosed Tuesday that a source of Cooper and Miller had waived confidentiality, giving the reporters permission to reveal where they got their information. The prosecutor did not identify the source, nor did he specify whether the source for each reporter was the same person.
Cooper said he had been told earlier that his source had signed a general waiver of confidentiality but that he did not trust such waivers because he thought they had been gained from executive branch employees under duress. He told the court that he needed not a general waiver but a specific waiver from his source, which he did not get until Wednesday.
"I received express personal consent" from the source, Cooper told the judge.
Hogan and Fitzgerald accepted Cooper's offer.
"That would purge you of contempt," Hogan said.