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D.C. Circuit: Wen Ho Lee Reporters Must Testify

In a split decision, the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider a panel's ruling that four reporters must give up their sources in nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee's civil suit against the Government.

Lee is seeking the identity of the sources for his lawsuit against the departments of Energy and Justice. He alleges the agencies gave reporters private information about him and suggested he was a suspect in the investigation into possible theft of nuclear secrets.

Judge Tatel, who wrote 41 page opinion (pdf) in the Judith Miller - Matthew Cooper case in which he said that he believes a journalist privilege should exist in some cirumstances, would have granted a hearing in Wen Ho Lee's case.

One who favored hearing the case, Judge David S. Tatel, wrote in his dissent that Lee's claim for compensation pales in importance to people's right to know about what was believed to be nuclear espionage. "It's hard to imagine how his (Lee's) interest could outweigh the public's interest in protecting journalists' ability to report without reservation on sensitive issues of national security," Tatel wrote.

In the Miller - Cooper case, Tatel wrote in his final paragraph:

Were the leak at issue in this case less harmful to national
security or more vital to public debate, or had the special
counsel failed to demonstrate the grand jury’s need for the
reporters’ evidence, I might have supported the motion to quash.
Because identifying appellants’ sources instead appears essential
to remedying a serious breach of public trust, I join in affirming
the district court’s orders compelling their testimony.

The full Wen Ho Lee decision is here.(pdf)

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  • Re: D.C. Circuit: Wen Ho Lee Reporters Must Testif (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:35 PM EST
    i keep reading these two, purportedly diametrically opposed positions, and i have to ask, "what the heck is he thinking?". in reality, the two cases are twin sons of different mothers. they both involve government officials, committing illegal acts, not for the purpose of exposing official wrongdoing, but solely to harm someone they are angry at. how does this serve the public good, exactly? i am still not real clear on this seeming dichotomy of rationale.

    Re: D.C. Circuit: Wen Ho Lee Reporters Must Testif (none / 0) (#1)
    by desertswine on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:45 PM EST
    At the time, a popular radio station ran with the quiz: Which one has a driver's license? a) Wen Ho Lee b) Why Too Kay An embarrasing number of people said Y2K.