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Saddest Ghost Lamp

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Cooper's Notes

The New York Times' Friday story on Time Inc.'s decision to sell out Matt Cooper's source has an interesting anecdote about how reporters under subpoena have protected their notes in the past, but rather frustratingly doesn't go into the question of how Time came to possess Cooper's notes. Recounting a 1978 subpoena battle that put then-New York Times reporter Myron Farber in jail for 40 days for refusing to give up a source--the case referenced by Arthur Sulzberger Jr. in his statement on Time Inc.'s decision to fold--Adam Liptak writes:
Mr. Farber, now retired, recalled the efforts he and the paper had made to protect his notes.

"The Times, at my request, I think it was, relinquished control of the notes to me," he said. "I took responsibility for protecting them, and I did protect them. I divied them up and hid them all over the region in a variety of places."

So why didn't Cooper take similar precautions? It's probably irrelevant, because Time Inc. could still turn over phone records and e-mails, over which Cooper has not control, that would help the prosecutors find out who he'd been talking to. But still, if Cooper had the notes in his possession and at some point handed them over to his bosses, it would indicate that this is either an act of extraordinary treachery on Time Inc.'s part--"Why don't you let us have those, Matt? No! We'd never hand them over, we promise"--or a case of setting up Time Inc. ahead of time as the fall guy--"We should have those notes so that we can be the ones to buckle and keep you out of jail if it comes to that, Matt."