The Washington Post is reporting that Time Magazine will hand over Michael Cooper’s notes on the Valerie Plame leak. During a press conference yesterday, following the court’s ultimatum that Michael Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of the NYT make their final decisions about what course they will take, Cooper said he preferred that Time would not cooperate but that he understood that the corporation had its own interests to consider in this case.

In a statement issued by the magazine’s editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstine, the magazine said the delivery of the confidential source documents “certainly removes any justification for incarceration.”

Is this just a matter of saving Cooper from incarceration? Not exactly. Read on.

Although Time said it would comply, the statement by the magazine and comments by the magazine’s editor-in-chief following the announcement left no doubt the magazine strongly disagreed with the courts’ orders.

Pearlstine told the Washington Post that the magazine felt it had no choice but to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. “As much as I’m a staunch defender of editorial independence, I don’t believe there’s anything in the Constitution that says journalists are above the law,” he said. “The alternative to complying would be a kind of anarchy.”

Pearlstine said, “those of us in the news business are constantly pointing fingers at others who act like they’re above the law. We can’t now assert that we are.”

This action is sure to add to the already massive controversy surrounding freedom of the press. Anarchy? Some will vehemently disagree. Was it proper for the court to even demand these notes? Many think it was not.

The Time statement said: “We believe that the Supreme Court has limited press freedom in ways that will have a chilling effect on our work and that may damage the free flow of information that is so necessary in a democratic society. It may also encourage excesses by overzealous prosecutors.

“Although we shall comply with the order to turn over the subpoenaed records, we shall continue to support the protection of confidential sources,” the statement continued. “The same constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts and respect for their rulings and judgments. That Time Inc. strongly disagrees with the courts provides no immunity.”

There’s the conundrum: the Supremes refused to hear the case. It went back to the lower court that demanded compliance and Time has decided it must relent – possibly jeapordizing its reputation as a defender of confidential sources from now on.

It’s the media’s equivalent of Sophie’s Choice.

Yesterday, [Judge] Hogan questioned the reporters’ assertions that they are keeping a promise not to identify a confidential source. In appellate court filings, Fitzgerald has indicated that he knows the identity of Miller’s source and that the official has voluntarily come forward.

“The sources have waived their confidentiality,” Hogan said. “They’re not relying on the promises of the reporters. . . . It’s getting curiouser and curiouser.”

Indeed. If they already know the identity of the source, why did they continue the prosecution of Cooper and Miller?

Attorneys for Miller and Cooper did not respond directly. They had said the investigation appeared to have changed from a probe of whether officials identified a covert agent to whether they perjured themselves in testimony to prosecutors. The latter, they said, does not justify jailing reporters.

This is quite the fight and it will have some major repercussions that could last a very long time. This administration is famous for shifting blame – instead of ponying up with the identity of the source who outed Valerie Plame, they’ve shifted the focus to these 2 reporters – a Rovian plan that has been very successful.

So, the pressing question at this point is now this: when will the public finally be given the name of this person and how will they be dealt with? It’s time to put the focus back on them and their vile actions.

The NYT issued a statement saying it will continue to support Judith Miller in this case.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the New York Times, issued a statement saying the newspaper was “deeply disappointed by Time Inc.’s decision to deliver the subpoenaed records.” He noted that one of its reporters served 40 days in jail in 1978 in a similar dispute.

You can read Time magazine’s full statement online here.

Update [2005-6-30 12:16:26 by catnip]: AP has Robert Novak’s reaction:

Columnist Robert Novak, who was the first to identify the CIA agent in print, told CNN he “will reveal all” after the matter is resolved, adding that it is wrong for the government to jail journalists.

Novak, who has not been held in contempt, has not commented on his involvement in the investigation.

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