A Supreme Setback for the Times

Two Times reporters called Islamic charity groups suspected of terrorist ties, in advance of government raids - and the Supreme Court yesterday refused to stop a federal prosecutor from reviewing the reporters' phone records.

Law reporter Adam Liptak reports on a significant setback for the Times at the Supreme Court in Tuesday's "Court Clears Way for Prosecutor To Review Records in Times Case."

"The United States Supreme Court refused yesterday to stop a federal prosecutor from reviewing the telephone records of two reporters for The New York Times. The records, the newspaper said, include information about many of the reporters' confidential sources.

"In a one-sentence order offering no reasoning and noting no dissenting votes, the Supreme Court rejected a request from The Times to stay a lower court's decision while the paper tried to persuade the justices to review the case.

"Yesterday's order effectively allows the United States attorney in Chicago, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, to begin reviewing the records, which he has already obtained from the reporters' phone companies, as early as this week."

Does that name sound familiar? Fitzgerald is the prosecutor behind the Valerie Plame investigation. The Times had previously lionized Fitzgerald in its reporting as the second coming of Eliot Ness. But with Plamegate petering out and Fitzgerald targeting Times reporters (Judy Miller twice, once in the Islamic charity case and again in the Plame imbroglio), relationsare presumablya bit frostier.

"The grand jury, in Chicago, is looking into who told the reporters, Judith Miller and Philip Shenon, about actions the government was planning to take in December 2001 against two Islamic charities in Illinois and Texas. The disclosures to the reporters, the government lawyers wrote on Friday, may have amounted to obstruction of justice.

"In August, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled, 2 to 1, in favor of Mr. Fitzgerald, saying that the reporters were not entitled to shield their sources in the unusual circumstances of the case. The government contended that the reporters had tipped off the charities to the impending actions against them. The Times said the reporters had engaged only in routine newsgathering."

Liptak doesn't provide any details of the underlying terror case. The New York Sun is more forthcoming about what the Times' reporters did and the negative consequences that may have resulted.

The Sun's Josh Gerstein reports: "In December 2001, the Times reported on government plans to raid two purported charities investigators said had links to terrorist groups, the Global Relief Foundation of Bridgeview, Ill., and the Holy Land Foundation of Richardson, Texas. Ms. Miller and the other reporter, Philip Shenon, called the groups in advance of the planned seizures. The journalists said they were following customary practice by seeking comment, but Mr. Fitzgerald said the calls amounted to warnings that could have endangered government agents."