Feds Gearing Up To Try, One More Time, To Force James Risen To Reveal His Source

from the showdown dept

Last week, we noted that Attorney General Eric Holder was hinting that the DOJ was near “a resolution” with reporter James Risen — the NY Times reporter who the DOJ has been harassing and trying to force to give up sources. In a recent interview, Risen makes the rather compelling case, that this effort by the DOJ was never about actually solving any sort of crime (the DOJ knows who did the leak), but rather about totally discrediting and/or punishing Risen for some of his other investigative reports. If the DOJ can undermine the ability of Risen to protect sources, he loses many sources.

Still, at about the same time that Holder was (again) insisting that no journalists would go to jail under his watch and that they were close to a resolution with Risen, the DOJ was exploring the possibility of issuing yet another subpoena on Risen to try (again) to force him to reveal his sources:

Federal prosecutors obtained 100 blank subpoenas last week for use in the upcoming trial of a CIA officer accused of leaking top-secret information to New York Times reporter James Risen.

The move clears the way for the Justice Department to proceed with a new review of whether Risen should be subpoenaed to testify at the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, the CIA employee accused of disclosing details of a CIA effort to set back Iran’s nuclear program.

Some of this is procedural. The DOJ put some new rules in place since the last subpoena, and so there’s an argument that in order to review the possibility of a new Risen subpoena, the DOJ basically has to do all the initial legwork, and then the DOJ (and Holder in particular) will “review” under the new rules before determining whether to try this silly process again or to back down. Of course, that seems silly. It seems much more viable to just come out and say that they won’t subpoena reporters like this and make that a clear and stated rule. But the DOJ seems unwilling to give up this harassment and intimidation tool.

In the end, it seems likely that Holder will fold, but this game of chicken, putting the threat of jail time on Risen to see who blinks first, is really quite disgraceful by the DOJ. So far, Risen has given no indication he intends to comply — and has held to the same story all along, that he will not give up his sources under any circumstance. Holder, on the other hand, has promised not to put a reporter doing his job in jail. If both men live up to their word, Holder is the one who needs to blink, and it’s pretty stupid to go through this whole charade in the meantime.

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Comments on “Feds Gearing Up To Try, One More Time, To Force James Risen To Reveal His Source”

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12 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Key qualifier: under his [Holder's] watch

Of course no journalists will go to jail under his [Holder’s] watch. However, Holder is already planning to step down sometime soon, so DOJ just needs to hold out until the first day that Holder is not Attorney General, then send a reporter to jail. Voila – Holder technically keeps his word and the DOJ gets to continue abusing its power and harassing citizens.

That One Guy (profile) says:

The simple fact that they are even still considering going after him, and especially putting him in a position where he could end up in jail for contempt of court by refusing to answer ‘Is this the person that sent you the classified documents?’ one way or another, shows the ‘reporters don’t need to fear going to jail for doing their job’ claim is a complete lie.

Anonymous Coward says:

Risen wasn’t even the one who tipped the Iranians off about Stuxnet and Flame. Iran wasn’t suspicious until Israeli operatives start deleting data off Iran’s networks. Up until that point, Iran had no idea their nuclear program was infected with a worm.

I still believe Israel’s slip up that blew the whole Stuxnet operation, is a major reason why diplomacy soured between America and Israel. Stuxnet was a joint operation between US and Israel.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

James Cartwright leaked detail of Stuxnet. James Risen leaked details about the CIA giving Iran nuclear weapon blueprints, which probably helped to speed up development of Iran’s nuclear program.

I can see why agencies in the Executive branch probably finds these details embarrassing. It would appear they keep coming after poor Risen out of spite.

I hope whoever had to bright idea of handing of nuclear bomb blueprints to Iran, no longer works in the Executive branch.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

After the Awesome Stuff article from TD related to podcasts, I finally got a podcast app (on android, settled for Podcast Addict for now, which feels pretty good actually) and so far have subscribed to This American Life and Fresh Air. One of the Fresh Air podcasts was an interview with Risen and related to his book Pay Any Price and he was talking about confidential sources and how the federal government has been harassing him for these years over it. I agree with him that he should not have to talk about his sources, period. That is journalism and out congress really needs to get around to passing the federal shield law so that the feds can’t harass people like Risen anymore.

Rekrul says:

In a recent interview, Risen makes the rather compelling case, that this effort by the DOJ was never about actually solving any sort of crime (the DOJ knows who did the leak), but rather about totally discrediting and/or punishing Risen for some of his other investigative reports. If the DOJ can undermine the ability of Risen to protect sources, he loses many sources.

It not just about scaring off Risen’s sources, it’s about scaring off ALL sources so that no leaker is is willing to trust a reporter.

Unchosen One says:

Re: Re:

If Risen “doesn’t blink first”, and it doesn’t seem like he’s going to, then they’re just digging their own grave. Risen specifically might become a trusted reporter for leakers, since they feel confident that he won’t reveal their identities, so the longer they go on with this, the bigger the chance someone will leak something again.

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