By CARL CAMPANILE
September 29, 2004 -- The Justice Department has charged that a veteran New York Times foreign correspondent warned an alleged terror-funding Islamic charity that the FBI was about to raid its office — potentially endangering the lives of federal agents.
The stunning accusation was disclosed yesterday in legal papers related to a lawsuit the Times filed in Manhattan federal court.
The suit seeks to block subpoenas from the Justice Department for phone records of two of its Middle Eastern reporters — Philip Shenon and Judith Miller — as part of a probe to track down the leak.
The Times last night flatly denied the allegation.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago charged in court papers that Shenon blew the cover on the Dec. 14, 2001, raid of the Global Relief Foundation — the first charges of their kind under broad new investigatory powers given to the feds under the Patriot Act.
"It has been conclusively established that Global Relief Foundation learned of the search from reporter Philip Shenon of The New York Times," Fitzgerald said in an Aug. 7, 2002, letter to the Times' legal department.
He said he understood journalists' concerns about protecting the identities of their sources, but national security and preventing leaks that thwart probes into "terrorist fund-raising" trump such confidentiality.
"I would posit that the circumstances here — the decision by the reporter to provide a tip to the subject of a terrorist fund-raising inquiry which seriously compromised the integrity of the investigation and potentially endangered the safety of federal law-enforcement personnel — warrant such cooperation in full," Fitzgerald said.
Times lawyer George Freeman told The Post that Fitzgerald "wrongly" suggested that Shenon alerted the Islamic charity to the raid.
"We deny he tipped anyone off," Freeman said.
He added that Global Relief would have anticipated the raid in any case because the feds had already hit the office of another suspected terror-funding Islamic charity, the Holy Land Foundation, and the government had frozen the assets of several other charities.
At issue is the Justice Department's request for 20 days worth of Shenon and Miller's phone records after the 9/11 terrorists attacks.
But the paper said such a broad request amounted to a "fishing expedition" that would potentially compromise "dozens of confidential sources."
The Times said both Shenon and Miller are award-winning reporters with more than 25 years of employment at "The Paper of Record."
Shenon has done extensive reporting on the Middle East, and was sent into combat with American troops during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
Miller won a Pulitzer Prize for her January 2001 series on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.