The defamation lawsuit against television host and Blaze founder Glenn Back has taken an ugly turn. Abdulrahman Alharbi has sued Beck for defamation after Glenn named him as being involved in the Boston Marathon bombing, continuing to do so even after authorities cleared him of any culpability. Beck has maintained all along that his sources were solid and wasn’t inclined to back down from the claims. Now a judge has determined that Beck will need to reveal those sources before he can clear his name in the suit. (Click Orlando)

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Glenn Beck must give up two confidential sources he says informed his reports on the Boston Marathon bombing.

Judge Patti Saris said the court cannot determine whether Beck is liable for defamation unless he unveils the identity of two “confidential government sources” he says told him 23-year-old Abdulrahman Alharbi was involved in the 2013 Boston Marathon terrorist attack.

The judge said testimony from Beck and his coworkers about what the sources told them, and when, is “vague and often contradictory.”

This is a sticky situation all around. Journalists are supposed to be able to keep their sources confidential unless it can be proven that the author is making fraudulent claims or that said sources never existed in the first place. (Sadly, both have happened in the past, but it’s thankfully a rare occurrence in professional journalism.) And assuming he’s being forthcoming in his description, Beck’s sources are three people “in the government” who should have been in a position to know what was going on in the early days of the investigation. Some credibility is lent to his claim by the fact that authorities did initially name Alharbi as a person of interest.

But once his name was cleared and the investigation dropped, Beck kept up with the claims that he had provided financial support to the terrorists. That does raise questions because such a claim should have been possible to prove by the FBI once they followed the money trail, and if they had turned anything up Alharbi would most likely be sitting in jail today. But it’s not quite that cut and dried in reality. Not every lead pans out in a criminal investigation and sometimes law enforcement will simply give up if the trail is a dead end. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is innocent… the feds may have simply determined that they couldn’t prove the case for a jury. In a situation such as that you may well find some agents who still strongly believe in the case, but were overruled. If Beck was listening to someone holding that sort of opinion then his reporting may have been completely valid.

Unfortunately, it sounds like Glenn would have to burn those sources and allow them to be questioned as part of this case to clear his name. He’s not facing jail time over this, but it could cost him a lot of money if he loses. All in all, Mr. Beck is in a tough situation right now, but if I had to venture a guess I’d say that he won’t give up the names.

Glenn Beck