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Judge defends jailing of reporter

Says right call was made in leak case

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The federal judge who jailed a former New York Times reporter for refusing to name her source during the CIA leak investigation defended his decision in public comments on the case.

Thomas F. Hogan, chief judge of Washington's federal district court, said he made the right call when he ruled there was no First Amendment protection for reporters to keep their sources confidential, especially in criminal matters. Hogan spoke Friday at a meeting of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association.

The case of reporter Judith Miller began as a typical Washington political story as the White House tried to push back against critics in a brewing scandal, Hogan told the group.

''It was the perfect storm," he said, of Washington politics, the media, and the law.

The Times reported in today's editions that, in addition to forcing reporters to identify their sources, the Bush administration has been exploring a possible tactic to protect information considered vital to national security: the criminal prosecution of reporters under espionage laws.

Administration officials have discussed the option in public comments and in court documents, the Times said. There is no indication that the administration has decided to begin such a prosecution.

The administration has moved on several legal fronts to encourage constraints on journalists.

In the past year alone, Miller was jailed for refusing to testify about a confidential source; her source, a White House aide, was prosecuted on charges that he lied about his contacts with reporters; a CIA analyst was dismissed for unauthorized contacts with reporters; and many subpoenas of reporters were upheld by the courts.

The Miller case has its start in 2003, when former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence about Iraq's efforts to buy uranium from Niger to justify going to war.

Miller wasn't an innocent bystander, Hogan said. ''She was an actor in the commission of a crime. She was part of the transfer of information that was a crime."

Hogan said he did not enjoy sending her to jail, but the law is clear.

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