Supreme Court Declines To Hear Reporters' Appeal

The Supreme Court, without comment, has refused to take the case of reporters sued for trying to protect confidential sources.

The Associated Press, which had a rooting interest in the decision, said Monday that the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from its reporter and several others who wrote stories about nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee.

The government and five news organizations agreed to settle the suit last week for $1.6 million.
In 1999, Lee was accused of giving nuclear secrets to the Chinese government and spent nine months in prison awaiting trial. But the charges turned out to be overblown and Lee ultimately pleaded guilty only to a single count of illegally gathering national-security data.

Lee’s counter-suit accused government officials of smearing him with leaks to reporters.

The news organizations were not named in the suit, but their reporters were held in contempt and fined $500 a day by a court for not disclosing sources for their stories on the investigation. The companies say they made the payments to end pressure on their reporters.

According to AP, the Justices could have dismissed based on the settlement but instead simply rejected the appeal outright.

That decision followed one two weeks ago in which a 5-4 court found that the First Amendment does not necessarily protect whistleblowing that goes through official channels.