1. The Intelligence Identities Protection Act sparked the investigation
into who was the source who leaked Valerie Plame's identity as a covert intelligence agent to journalist Bob Novak. While normally journalistic sources are considered protected, the Act deemed the information leaked to be a threat to national security and a prosecutable offense. Thus, a grand jury investigation began to determine who had committed this crime.
2. The threat of punishment on a journalist could have a cooling effect on journalists and their ability to provide necessary information to the American public. A journalist may be intimidated into exposing their sources under threat of imprisonment, which in turn might scare sources from sharing information. As a result, journalism as a whole would be less effective in doing its job to inform.
3. Punishment can conflict with the First Amendment's freedom of the press because, as stated above, it can harm a journalist's ability to get and disseminate information. The purpose of having a free press is to have a free flow of information to the marketplace, and threat of punishment can suppress that. Imagine what would happened in the 1970s had Deep Throat been too fearful of exposure to come forward.
4. Bob Novak's publication could have jeopardized national security in that he disclosed the identity of a covert agent. In doing so, he exposed her as an individual that was likely privy to classified information and possibly to the identity of other covert agents. If the wrong people were to trap and interrogate her, it could result in the disclosure of all that information.
5. Contempt of court is essentially an order by a judge that an individual has disrespected a court. Judges generally find individuals in contempt for failing to follow a direct order, failing to answer a subpoena, and causing disruptions in court. A finding of contempt can result in a fine or jail time for the perpetrator. Journalists often find themselves in contempt when they are ordered to disclose information about their sources to the court and they refuse.
6. Judith Miller, a reporter for the New York Times, was jailed for contempt of court. She had been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury that was investigating the Valerie Plame matter in order to determine who had violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. She refused to respond to the subpoena as a result of her journalistic obligation to protect her sources, and a federal judge subsequently found her in contempt.