The Obama administration has backed away from a longstanding threat to throw New York Times reporter James Risen in jail for refusing to divulge his source for a book he wrote about American efforts to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. They now say they won’t force him to reveal the source.
The Justice Department will not try to compel New York Times reporter James Risen to testify about his source at an upcoming trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information, according to a source familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The move comes amid harsh criticism from press freedom advocates over the treatment of Risen, who would have faced jail time for contempt had he refused to answer the court’s questions.
Risen has said he was prepared to go to jail to protect the identity of his source.
A federal judge in Virginia had given the Justice Department until next Tuesday to announce whether it would call Risen in the upcoming trial of CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with leaking the classified information.
Federal officials would only ask Risen “to confirm that he had an agreement with a confidential source, and that he did write the book,” a senior Justice Department source told NBC, which first broke the story Friday night.
The government “will no longer seek what he’s most concerned about revealing,” according to the report.
That’s good news, especially from an administration with an absolutely terrible record on prosecuting whistleblowers.