DOJ Decides Not to Question James Risen

DOJ Decides Not to Question James Risen January 14, 2015

In good news for journalists everywhere, the DOJ has decided not to call James Risen as a witness in the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him about a botched operation in Iran. This follows on the heels of a strange pretrial hearing in the case and more than a year of threats to jail him if he didn’t reveal his source.

James Risen, a New York Times reporter, will not be called to testify at a leak trial scheduled to begin this week, lawyers said Monday, ending a seven-year legal fight over whether he could be forced to identify his confidential sources.

The Justice Department wanted Mr. Risen to testify at the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former C.I.A. officer charged with providing him details about a botched operation in Iran that was intended to disrupt that country’s nuclear program. Mr. Sterling had raised concerns inside the government about the program, and prosecutors suspect he took those concerns to Mr. Risen, who described the program in his 2006 book, “State of War.”

Mr. Risen, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, was the highest-profile journalist drawn into the Obama administration’s attempt to crack down on government officials who talk to reporters about national security. The Justice Department has brought more charges in leak cases than were brought in all previous administrations combined. The case became a rallying cry for journalism groups and civil rights advocates. Mr. Risen took his fight to the Supreme Court and lost, but Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. ultimately said prosecutors would not force him to reveal his sources.

James Risen, a New York Times reporter, will not be called to testify at a leak trial, ending a lengthy legal fight over whether he could be compelled to reveal his sources. Credit Cliff Owen/Associated Press

“We said from the very beginning that under no circumstances would Jim identify confidential sources to the government or anyone else,” Mr. Risen’s lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, said. “The significance of this goes beyond Jim Risen. It affects journalists everywhere. Journalists need to be able to uphold that confidentiality in order to do their jobs.”…

Mr. Risen, who learned about the decision to drop the subpoena in a phone call from his lawyer Monday evening while in an interview, referred questions to his lawyer.

“I’m glad the government realizes that Jim Risen was an aggressive reporter doing his job and that he should not be forced to reveal his source,” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement on Monday.

This is a big win for journalists and for the entire job of being a government watchdog.

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