Supreme Court Won't Hear Reporter's Appeal; James Risen May Now Face Jail For Not Revealing Sources

from the shameful dept

Unfortunately, it appears that the Supreme Court has decided not to hear reporter James Risen's appeal in the case in which he has been subpoenaed to testify, concerning CIA leaks. Risen had refused to testify, claiming that as a reporter he was entitled to keep his sources confidential. Last summer, the 4th Circuit appeals court said that Risen could be compelled to testify and to give up his sources. The court refused a request to rehear the case en banc (with a full slate of judges, rather than just a 3 judge panel). He then appealed to the Supreme Court, leading to today's rejection.

The DOJ, of course, had vigorously argued that the Supreme Court should reject Risen's appeal (ridiculously, it did this the same day the State Department launched a "free the press" campaign). Last week, we noted that some were interpreting Eric Holder's comments to mean that he would not seek jail time for Risen, should he continue to refuse to testify, but a closer reading of Holder's comments said no such thing.

It appears we may now find out the truth. If Risen continues to protect his sources, the ball will be in the DOJ's court: will it give up or will it pursue throwing a widely respected reporter in jail? One would hope that a basic sense of common decency would lead the DOJ to give up this ridiculous fight, but the DOJ doesn't have much of a history of common decency.

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  1. identicon
    Whatever, 2 Jun 2014 @ 8:28pm

    Re: LOL

    I always get a giggle when someone pulls out the "worse than Nazi Germany" comparisons. You will show me where the trains are taking people to the gas chambers, and then we can talk about your assertions. Until then, hyperbole is hyperbole.

    This case is very interesting because the ruling dates back 45 years. This is not a new issue. Rather, the courts in a balanced and considered judgement ruled that the first amendment doesn't specifically include any press shield provisions, and that there are circumstances where a reporter may be compelled to divulge sources. This particular case is a good example, as the reporter's information and it's source are key to determining guilt or innocence. So you have to weigh the harm done compared to the public's right for justice to be served.

    The circumstances are reasonable exceptional, and the panel's 2-1 decision seems to take that into account. There is a point where a reporter keeping his knowledge of a crime or keeping the source of a confession away from police crossed into aiding and abetting the crime. The reporter here declining to provide the source doesn't just shield the source from public scrutiny or infamy, but rather protects that individual from paying the price for their crimes. The benefits to the public outweigh what is lost in this particular instance.

    No Nazis required

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