Oct 24, 2006

Win A Trip With Nick Kristof?

I doubt many university students will be eager to accompany Kristof on this journey.

A federal judge has ordered the New York Times Co. to disclose the confidential sources used by Nicholas D. Kristof in columns that explored whether a former Army scientist was responsible for the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks.

The ruling, made public yesterday, came in a lawsuit filed by the former scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, contending that the paper defamed him in a series of Kristof columns in 2002 that identified him as a "likely culprit." Hatfill has been identified by authorities as a "person of interest" in the anthrax-spore mailings that killed five people and sickened 17. No one has been charged in the attacks.

Hatfill's attorneys are seeking to compel Kristof to reveal his sources, arguing that questioning them is vital to their case. Kristof has refused. U.S. Magistrate Judge Liam O'Grady in Alexandria sided with Hatfill and ordered the journalist to disclose the identity of the three sources by tomorrow. ...

The Times said yesterday that it plans to appeal, and Kristof vowed to continue protecting his sources. "We were disappointed with the decision because we believe that confidential sources are sometimes very important in covering government investigations," Kristof said in an interview. "And I'm passionate about protecting the confidentiality of my sources."

The ruling is the latest in a series of court defeats for journalists trying to shield news-gathering activities from the legal process. Judges have ordered reporters covering issues ranging from baseball's steroid scandal to the investigation into the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity to disclose confidential sources. In the Plame case, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to comply. ...

In a series of columns in 2002, Kristof criticized the FBI for failing to aggressively pursue a scientist he initially called "Mr. Z." He wrote that the biodefense community had called Mr. Z a "likely culprit," partly because the scientist was familiar with anthrax.

Kristof later acknowledged that Hatfill was Mr. Z. He also wrote that Hatfill deserved the "presumption of innocence."

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