In relation to the illegal outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, the Washington Post covers the issue of "shield laws" for reporters and their confidential sources. Two journalists from Time magazine and the New York Times are facing up to 18 months of jail time for refusing to testify, thereby protecting their sources--even though neither of those two reporters outed Plame:
The basic argument in favor of legal protection for a reporter's pledge of confidentiality is that the public interest is served by making sure that whistle-blowers can take their tales of official wrongdoing to the news media without fear of reprisal.
In 49 of the 50 states, plus the District, that argument has carried the day, and a reporter's privilege of some kind has been recognized either by a "shield law" or by a court decision. ...
However, the counterargument is that reporters, no less than other citizens, have a duty to tell the authorities about criminal conduct they may have witnessed. And that persuaded five members of the Supreme Court when it ruled in 1972, in Branzburg v. Hayes, that the First Amendment does not protect journalists from being subpoenaed by a federal grand jury.
Although it's unlikely to become law Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-Connecticut) has drafted a federal reporter shield law bill. But it's needed. Sources with crucial public interest information might not come forward if they know reporters will be forced to reveal their identities.
However, these cases are interesting, in the sense that, as David Rudenstine, dean of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law said:
".. here the sources that are at stake represent the government using its power to punish the leaker. . . . It's quite different from the Watergate model."
Also, brought up within the article is the fact that columnist Robert D. Novak is not facing the court, even though it was Novak that outed Plame originally. This means Novak probably knows the identities of the primary-source leakers who likely identified Plame for political payback for her husband's--former Ambassador Joseph Wilson--public critique of some of the administration's claims about Iraq's pursuit of WMDs. Speaking of the leak--punishable by up to ten years in prison--columnist Richard Cohen said it was, "Nixonian in its malevolence."