Court Won't Rehear Reporter James Risen's Appeal On Being Compelled To Testify About Sources

from the on-to-the-supreme-court dept

In July, we wrote about a worrisome ruling by an appeals court, that said that NYTimes reporter James Risen could be compelled to give up his sources by putting him on the witness stand in a whistleblower case. Risen is, quite reasonably, arguing that Constitutional protections for a free press should prevent him from having to reveal sources. The appeals court panel had ruled two-to-one against Risen and in favor of the government. Risen asked the entire appeals court to rehear the appeal (a so-called “en banc” rehearing), but the Fourth Circuit appeals court has rejected the request by an overwhelming majority: 13-to-1. The one vote in favor of rehearing the appeal was, not surprisingly, the sole judge who sided with Risen in the original ruling, Roger Gregory. The case isn’t over yet, as Risen will almost certainly ask the Supreme Court to hear the appeal. And, given the subject area, one hopes that the Supreme Court will agree to take the case. But, for now, we’re left in a world where the government continues to have way too much power over a supposedly free press in their ongoing war against whistleblowers.

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Comments on “Court Won't Rehear Reporter James Risen's Appeal On Being Compelled To Testify About Sources”

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17 Comments
Hidden Force says:

We Can't Depend on the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has repeatedly decided against our Constitutional rights over the past several years — Campaign Finance Reform (First Amendment), Kelo (Fifth Amendment), ObamaCare (Many Amendments) — so what’s to make us believe that the Supreme Court will decide on the side of the citizens in another First Amendment case? Their track record with regard to Constitutionally-protected rights has been pretty dismal as of late.

Anonymous Coward says:

A Whistleblower is a specific and defined legal status in the US with it’s own specific laws, for first of which was adopted in the US in 1863. If you do not fall under that legally defined status, you are not a whistleblower.

So just calling someone a whistleblower does not make the person you call one !

Snowden and manning are not whistleblowers as defined by the well established US laws on whistleblowers.

They might be something else, but whistleblowers they are not.

And being a journalist does not exempt you from the laws, I hope he does get heard by the supreme court, they will decide the same as the lower courts.

Journalists are not above the law, thankfully.

barley blair (profile) says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 18th, 2013 @ 7:45pm

I agree that Manning mas y have been a whistleblower. But you’ve no idea what you’re talking about when referring to Snowden. He is by every details unction, including within the scope of the latest law as passed in 2012.

As for the First Amendment, you’re viewpoint is your own and, thankfully, not shared by many others. Risen is a thoughtful and mostly responsible professional. His work has been recognised and respected.

Reread the Bill of Rights someday when you’re able and think about the role of a free press which was so respected by the authours that they took pains to specifically enumerate its role in our society–a role for which Yi out seem to have no appreciation.

barley blair (profile) says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 18th, 2013 @ 7:45pm

I agree that Manning mas y have been a whistleblower. But you’ve no idea what you’re talking about when referring to Snowden. He is by every details unction, including within the scope of the latest law as passed in 2012.

As for the First Amendment, you’re viewpoint is your own and, thankfully, not shared by many others. Risen is a thoughtful and mostly responsible professional. His work has been recognised and respected.

Reread the Bill of Rights someday when you’re able and think about the role of a free press which was so respected by the authours that they took pains to specifically enumerate its role in our society–a role for which you seem to have no appreciation.

horse with no name says:

Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 18th, 2013 @ 7:45pm

A true whistleblower is trying to direct your attention to a very specific situation and a very specific case. Manning didn’t do that, rather he apparently dumped an entire agency worth of information and said “I am sure someone can find something here”. It’s a data dump for glory, not whistleblowing.

Even Snowden doesn’t really past the test, because he again data dumped an agency hoping people would find specific things. Rather than being outraged by a single case, he just disliked his job and what he felt they were doing, so he dumped it all and hoped it would get some people.

While the end result appears to be whistling blowing, both cases have significant and untold implications beyond the scope of what would fall under whistleblowing. As an example, Snowdon’s little data dump made it so that pretty much every country on the planet can claim the US is snooping on them, and use that as leverage against the US in any negotiation or political situation – even if it’s not true or not of any real scope.

Data dumping is not whistleblowing – whistleblowing tries to right a specific wrong, data dumping is done to piss people off.

As for the reporter, when you actually witness a crime or worse participate in it, even in passing, then you are no longer protected by privilege. There is a line, and he appears to have crossed it. Just like many anti-piracy cases, if you get the wrong or a poor defendant – or if they are trying to defend a bad point – they can set caselaw for everyone else. Journalist groups would be wise to come down on this guy and tell him to just eat it… taking this to the supreme court would be a slam dunk loss.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Snowden and manning are not whistleblowers as defined by the well established US laws on whistleblowers.

I couldn’t care less what the law defines as a “whistleblower”, especially since those laws were specifically written to ensure that as little actual whistleblowing as possible is covered by them.

These guys are whistleblowers by any practical definition I can think of.

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