June 28, 2005

Court: reporters in contempt over Wen Ho Lee

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Tuesdaysaid four journalists could be held in contempt of court forrefusing to disclose names of confidential sources who mighthave given them information about Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamosnuclear scientist once suspected of espionage.

The U.S. Appeals Court in Washington overturned a lowercourt's contempt ruling for one other journalist, Jeff Gerth,who is also subpoenaed in the case.

"We hold that the District Court did not abuse itsdiscretion in holding four of the five journalists incontempt," Judge David Sentelle wrote in the opinion for thecourt.

The four journalists found in contempt are Robert Drogin ofthe Los Angeles Times, James Risen of The New York Times, JosefHebert of the Associated Press and Pierre Thomas, formerly ofCNN and now at ABC News.

Lee was fired from his Los Alamos job in March 1999 amidallegations he was spying for China. The government's caseagainst him collapsed, and Lee eventually pleaded guilty to onelesser charge.

After his indictment, Lee sued several U.S. agencies forimproperly disclosing personal information about him and theinvestigation to the media. The journalists were deposed butrefused to answer certain questions about their sources.