Eric Holder Blinks: Won't Force Reporter James Risen To Reveal Source (Or Send Him To Jail)
from the could-have-done-that-a-while-ago dept
As we noted last month, the feds have started gearing up to try to force reporter James Risen to reveal his source on some CIA reporting from a few years ago. Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, has been facing this threat for years. He’s made a compelling case that the whole thing was just to punish him for his reporting. The DOJ had no need for Risen to reveal his source (the DOJ basically knows who it is) and the whole thing is over a really minor issue. It really seemed like the whole thing was set up to see if they could force Risen to cough up the name to guarantee that future whistleblowers wouldn’t be able to trust Risen any more.
Well, that backfired big time.
Earlier this week, the judge in the case told the DOJ that it had one week to decide if it was going to call Risen as a witness:
Since June 2,2014, the United States has had over six months to decide whether it will subpoena James Risen to testify at this trial, which is scheduled to begin Monday, January 12, 2015. Because Mr. Risen’s presence or absence at the trial will have a significant impact on how the parties present their case, a decision about Mr. Risen must be made sufficiently before trial to enable the parties to prepare adequately.
Combine that with Eric Holder’s repeated promise that he wouldn’t put a reporter in jail (with the ridiculous loophole that depended on whether Holder decided that reporter was “doing his job” or doing something that Holder decided was not, in fact, “his job”) and it should come as little surprise that Holder has now blinked and said that the DOJ will not force Risen to reveal his source. Instead, the DOJ says that if they ask Risen to testify, it’ll solely be to “confirm that he had an agreement with a confidential source, and that he did write the book.”
It’s great that the DOJ is basically no longer threatening Risen with jail, but there is no reason at all that it had to wait so many years and go right down to the judge-imposed wire. Instead, the DOJ let Risen dangle for many years with the threat that he might have to go to jail to protect a source. That’s ridiculous and a shameful abuse of power to intimidate a great journalist.
Of course, there’s one upside for Risen: if you’re a whistleblower looking for a journalist you can trust, it looks like the DOJ just vouched for Risen’s credibility in keeping his sources secret.