An NYT breakdown of how Time reporter Matthew Cooper came to agree to testify in the Valerie Plame leak case.
Matthew Cooper, a reporter for Time magazine, stood before a federal judge on Wednesday, facing up to four months in jail for refusing to testify about a confidential source. But he told the judge that he had just received a surprising communication from his source that would allow him to testify before a grand jury investigating the disclosure of the identity of a covert C.I.A. operative.
“A short time ago,” Mr. Cooper said, “in somewhat dramatic fashion, I received an express personal release from my source.”
But the facts appear more complicated than they seemed in court. Mr. Cooper, it turns out, never spoke to his confidential source that day, said Robert D. Luskin, a lawyer for the source, who is now known to be Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser.
The development was actually the product of a frenzied series of phone calls initiated that morning by a lawyer for Mr. Cooper and involving Mr. Luskin and the special prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald. And the calls were the culmination of days of anxiety and introspection by a reporter who by all accounts wanted to live up to his pledge to protect his confidential source yet find a way to avoid going to jail as another reporter, Judith Miller of The New York Times, was about to do.
Mr. Cooper and his personal lawyer, Richard A. Sauber, declined to comment on the negotiations, but Mr. Sauber said that Mr. Cooper had used the word “personal” to mean specific. Representatives of Mr. Fitzgerald did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In the days before, Mr. Cooper viewed his situation as in many ways different from Ms. Miller's.
While Ms. Miller had consistently refused to testify, Mr. Cooper had already given testimony once in the investigation, in August 2004, describing conversations he had had with I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.
And while Ms. Miller had the support of her employer, Time had handed over documents that identified Mr. Rove as one of Mr. Cooper's sources, after the United States Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from the reporters and the magazine last month. “The question that was on his mind,” said Steven Waldman, a college classmate and former national editor at U.S. News and World Report, “and this is my words, is: do you go to jail to protect the confidentiality of a source whose name has been revealed, and not by you but by someone else?”