Many Pulitzer Prize Winners Demand DOJ Stop Threatening Reporter James Risen With Jail If He Protects His Sources

from the chilling-effects dept

For a while now we've been following the troubling story of NY Times reporter James Risen, whom the DOJ has been bullying and threatening with jail for daring to keep his sources confidential. Despite Eric Holder pretending to say that the DOJ won't put a reporter in jail, he's made it quite clear that only applies to a "reporter who is doing his job," and it's pretty clear that the DOJ apparently doesn't think protecting your sources is part of the job. Unfortunately, the court process has gone against Risen, so the only remaining question is if the DOJ will really seek to put Risen in jail.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation has put together a petition for Risen, but perhaps even more interesting is that it further got over a dozen Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists to speak out on Risen's behalf. Here are just a few:

DANA PRIEST, Public Service, 2008 / The Washington Post; Beat Reporting, 2006 / The Washington Post:

If the U.S. government were so concerned about the information revealed in Jim Risen’s stunning chapter on a now 14-year-old CIA operation against Iran gone wrong, it would have moved quickly to resolve this matter eight years ago when it was first published. Instead, it seems obvious now that what officials really want is to hold a hammer over the head of a deeply sourced reporter, and others like him who try to hold the government accountable for what it does, even in secret.

As Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama classified more and more of the government’s actions over the last 14 years, denying the public critical information to judge how its democracy is faring, it has fallen to reporters like Risen to keep Americans informed and to question whether a gigantic government in the shadows is really even a good idea. We will all be worse off if this case proceeds.

DAVID ROHDE, International Reporting, 1996 / Christian Science Monitor; International Reporting, team coverage, 2009 / New York Times (now at Reuters)

The Justice Department’s pursuit of James Risen puts the lie to President Obama’s claim that he “welcomes” debate regarding his national security policies and leads “the most transparent administration in history.”  The administration should immediately end its pursuit of Risen and respect all journalists’ first amendment rights.

MARCUS STERN, National Reporting, 2006 / Copley News Service:

No press shield, no freedom. It's about the great values embodied in the First Amendment and whether they will be undermined at this moment in history or endure for future generations. The fate of James Risen and his anonymous source is our fate and our grand-children's fate. Please, get it right.

JASON SZEP and ANDREW R.C. MARSHALL, International Reporting, 2014 / Reuters:

It is scandalous that James Risen faces jail time for doing what every good journalist working in the public interest does: protect confidential sources. President Obama and Attorney General Holder should halt all legal action against James to demonstrate that their “war on leaks” is not an assault on the First Amendment and freedom of the press.

It's a travesty that this situation is still occuring. It creates a real chilling effect for both reporters and for sources, and seems like a clear First Amendment violation, even if the courts still disagree on this fact. The DOJ could put an end to this, but has not.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    David, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 1:40am

    Hypothetical

    Let's assume that I fully embrace the values and rationale expressed in the U.S. constitution and its Bill of Rights.

    Which country should I be living in? The U.S.A. definitely seems off the shortlist.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 2:09am

      Re: Hypothetical

      If you embrace the Constitution then you want to live in the USA.

      Do your civic duty and elect politicians who uphold your values or run for office yourself.

      Speak out against those who abuse their power.

      But in the land of the brave the last thing you should consider is cowering and running away from abusive politicians. I for one do not welcome our abusive overlords and will not allow my ancestors sacrifices for freedom to be wasted.

       

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        identicon
        David, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 5:20am

        Re: Re: Hypothetical

        It would appear that you are too late in "not allowing your ancestors' sacrifices for freedom to be wasted". Your ancestors' descendants are making quite a bargain (they are basically choking in all the security they get in return) selling that freedom away, so the sacrifices were definitely not wasted.

        It's sort of like all the scientists who worked hard and invested in the future so that everybody has the chance of having a worthless degree and a few hundred thousands of debt at age 26.

         

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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 3:39am

    'The DOJ could put an end to this, but has not.'

    Indeed, one has to wonder just why they're refusing to back down, and keep hanging the threat of jail time unless the reporter reveals his sources.

    Oh, right...

    'It creates a real chilling effect for both reporters and for sources'

    They haven't put a stop to it, because 'a real chilling effect for both reporters and for sources' is exactly what they want. To make potential whistleblowers afraid to go to the press, and the press afraid to publish what little tidbits slip through is precisely the goal. Much easier to get away with all sorts of unpleasantries, if those that could expose you have become too cowed by fear to even consider it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 4:37am

    criminals can only be purged with fire and sword, asking them nicely to start upholding the laws they are charged with enforcing is not going to go anywhere

     

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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 4:47am

    When will our government learn that democracy isn't democracy when it's clouded in secrecy?

     

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    •  
      identicon
      AC, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 8:14am

      Re:

      You still do not have a true democracy, and I wish people would stop throwing around that term you live in a Representative Democracy or for a better term a Democratic Republic. What you think you have but don't is a Direct Democracy, this is what you need to stop this corruption, but hey who can take the time to give a shit.

       

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        identicon
        David, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 11:52am

        Re: Re:

        It is a Constitutional Republic. A Democracy can be worse, since you are subject to tyranny of the majority or tragedy of the commons. The Constitutional Republic is supposed to protect the individual from the masses, but also protect the individual and masses from the government. However, that means that individuals and masses have to force the government to respect the Constitution. We seem to be having some trouble in that regard.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 6:07am

    The DoJ just like every branch of our government is a tool of the powerful and just like the rest of them have forgotten whom and what they under oath are supposed to be protecting.

     

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    identicon
    David, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 7:02am

    Jury Nullification

    This, my friends, needs to be better taught to people. This is the peoples defense against unjust laws or the unjust application of laws. If you truly believe that what Risen has done is the morally right thing to do to serve the people, find him "not guilty" regardless of the charges the DOJ attempts to throw at him.

    "The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy."
    John Jay, 1st Chief Justice

    "The law itself is on trial quite as much as the cause which is to be decided."
    Harlan F. Stone, 12th Chief Justice

     

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    Alien Rebel (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 10:23am

    New Normal

    A few decades ago I had thoughts of traveling to the Philippines, but the travel warnings put me off; among them were commonly encountered problems of corruption among public employees and officials. Several that I remember: customs officers would stamp passports with a shorter-term visa than was paid for, and pocket the difference. Post office employees would remove stamps from letters and packages. Travelers needed to carry a reasonable amount of bribe money for the local cops, who had a tendency to detain cheapskates.

    While these things are probably exceedingly common in many places, it dawned on me that the Philippines had been given a constitution by their once-upon-a-time overlord (the U.S.) nearly identical to its own, and it became very real to me that what's on paper isn't nearly so important as what people will accept as normal.

    The bottom line is that if Americans don't develop a serious interest in reigning in our new security state, we're gonna be in big trouble. I suspect that our rights and cherished institutions like a free press can disappear with much less fuss than many people would think possible.

     

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    Stosh (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 2:41pm

    The journalists control what gets covered in the news.

    If the President, government wants to jail them, they would just need to ignore the President. Instead of covering any presidential, State dept, or other press conference, only cover the opposition's press conferences.

    Cut of their voice completely so long an any journalist is in prison.

     

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      GEMont, Aug 14th, 2014 @ 3:13pm

      Re:

      "The journalists control what gets covered in the news."

      Actually no, they don't.

      The owners of the newspapers decide what is publishable or not.

      You live in an Ownership Society remember.

      Journalists are simply employees, trying to earn a living.

      If they step out of line, they get canned and because the papers are all owned by a handful of good friends, fired journalists will not be hired by any other newspaper.

      ---

       

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    identicon
    GEMont, Aug 14th, 2014 @ 3:06pm

    Can't happen here....

    "It's a travesty that this situation is still occuring."

    Actually, it would be a travesty if it were happening in a democratic country with unfixed elections, where the government was the employee of the people.

    However, this is happening in Amerika, where the elections are fixed and the politicians are chosen by the fascists Billionaires of Wall Street and where the Truth Free Press is owned by a hand-full of fascists, who have no desire to see the truth printed in their papers, ever.

    In Amerika, this is just business as usual.
    ---

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 1:52pm

    I hope this is the straw that breaks the media. A journalists and editors revolt against the status-quo of protecting this administration through selective reporting

     

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