Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Part of Wen Ho Lee case pending at US Supreme Court

In the "reporter privilege" case involving the Wen Ho Lee matter, Lee attorney Brian Sun told the Supreme Court in a recent letter to the clerk "that there have been recent settlement discussions with the government in the underlying case, that resolution of the entire case may be imminent, but that there is not yet a final agreement."

At issue is what First Amendment privilege journalists may have, if any, to reject subpoenas in civil lawsuits demanding they reveal their sources of reporting.

If if does move forward, the case could serve to clarify conflicting legal standards over how the press deals with sensitive information it obtains.

Among the reporters fighting the subpoenas is Pierre Thomas, who was CNN's justice correspondent in 1999.

Thomas reported extensively on the government probe of Lee, a onetime Energy Department scientist who worked at the federal nuclear research facility in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Government officials, including then-Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, publicly named Lee as a target of a probe into the alleged theft of highly secret documents from the lab, and investigators suspected he was spying for China.

Lee was later cleared of espionage and nearly all the other serious charges.

After his release from prison, Lee sued the government under the Privacy Act, alleging officials leaked false and incriminating information to several reporters, including Thomas, who now works at ABC News.

Thomas and four other reporters were subpoenaed in 2002, and a federal district court ordered them to testify or face contempt charges.

There were issues of confidentiality of information.


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