Reporter James Risen Won’t Be Forced to Testify in CIA Leak Case

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<<enter caption here>> on August 14, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/2014 Getty Images

The seven-year legal battle over whether New York Times reporter James Risen would be jailed for refusing to reveal his sources ended on Monday when both the defense and the prosecution said they would not call him to testify in a CIA leak case. Jeffrey Sterling, a CIA officer, allegedly shared details on a failed U.S. attempt to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program with the two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, who described the incident in his 2006 book State of War. Risen fought a subpoena from the Justice Department and said he would go to jail before revealing his sources. While the Supreme Court ultimately sided with the government, Risen stayed out of jail because of intervention by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder decided last month that while Risen could be subpoenaed, prosecutors shouldn’t demand that he reveal who told him about the Iran operation. Risen testified in a hearing last week that he had multiple sources and did not intend to identify any of them. Prosecutors refrained from pushing Risen, which could have led to him being jailed for contempt of court.

Sterling’s trial will proceed on Tuesday, but many doubt that the Justice Department can convict him without Risen’s testimony. In light of the case, many journalism organizations pressed Congress to pass a new media shield law, and the Justice Department issued new internal guidelines on when a reporter’s notes can be seized. However, the Supreme Court ruling set a legal precedent that could be used by future administrations to push reporters to reveal their sources.

Reporter Doesn’t Have to Testify on CIA Leak