A New York Times reporter threatened with prison in a Justice Department leak probe says that President Barack Obama's hatred of the press is behind a government crackdown on media coverage of national security.
"I don't think any of this would be happening under the Obama administration if Obama didn't want to do it," James Risen of The New York Times told an audience at Colby College in Maine on Sunday, a local newspaper, the Morning Sentinel, reported.
"I think Obama hates the press. I think he doesn’t like the press and he hates leaks," said Risen, who is fighting a subpoena from federal prosecutors to name his source for details of a failed CIA operation against Iran.
The two-time Pulitzer prize winner wrote about the spy agency's efforts to slow Iran's nuclear weapons program in his book, "State of War: The History of the CIA and the Bush Administration."
Risen was at the college to receive an award named for Elijah Lovejoy, a murdered 19th Century journalist.
Although the president and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have signaled that they don't want to see Risen imprisoned, the subpoena issued by federal prosecutors for his testimony still stands — and Risen said Sunday that he still has no intention of obeying it.
"I would go to jail to protect the confidentiality of my sources," he said.
Risen also said that Holder has used his position as attorney general to shield the president from criticism by pursuing whistleblowers and punishing leakers. Risen argued that the government, in its zeal to prosecute leaks, has failed to prove that reporting on national security has done the damage alleged by officials.
"I think it’s one of these things that the government has gotten into the habit of, crying wolf constantly," he said, "and they’ve lost a lot of credibility on these issues."
Various news organizations, journalism advocacy groups and individual reporters have described the Obama White House
as more hostile to press freedom and transparency of information than any administration in modern memory.
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