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Times Reporter Prevails in 3-Year Fight Over CIA Leak Source

Monday, 12 January 2015 07:07 PM

New York Times reporter James Risen prevailed over the U.S. government in its effort to force him to reveal a confidential source as part of a CIA leak prosecution.

The request today by prosecutors that Risen be dropped as a witness caps his three-year battle to avoid testifying about his sources. The legal battle reached the U.S. Supreme Court and focused attention on the Obama administration’s aggressive pursuit of leaks. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in February reacted by issuing guidelines restricting the use of subpoenas and search warrants for journalists.

Risen told a judge Jan. 5 he wouldn’t answer questions that could help identify sources for his report on a bungled Central Intelligence Agency program to give Iran false nuclear weapon development data. Jeffrey Sterling, an ex-CIA agent, faces trial tomorrow in Alexandria, Virginia, federal court accused of leaking the secret information to Risen for his 2006 book, “State of War.”

Calling Risen as a witness “would simply frustrate the truth-seeking function of the trial,” prosecutors wrote in today’s court filing.

The government today also asked the court to bar defense lawyers from using Risen’s failure to appear as evidence the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof.

Defense Stance

Sterling’s lawyers cited Risen’s Jan. 5 testimony as justification for dismissing the case.

Edward MacMahon, an attorney for Sterling, didn’t immediately reply to phone and e-mail messages requesting comment on the decision not to call Risen as a witness.

Sterling is one of at least seven Americans charged with disclosing national defense information to reporters under the Espionage Act of 1917 during Obama’s tenure.

The Supreme Court in June left intact an appeals court ruling against Risen and declined to hear his contention that a reporter’s privilege shields journalists from identifying confidential sources.

Risen still refused to answer questions that he thought would allow prosecutors to identify sources even indirectly, according to his Jan. 5 testimony.

Risen told the court he was “not willing to provide information in any way that will prove or disprove a mosaic the government is trying to make.”

Sterling was charged in a 10-count indictment in 2010 with unauthorized retention and communication of national defense information, unauthorized conveyance of government property, mail fraud and obstruction of justice.

Joel Kurtzberg, a lawyer for Risen, declined to comment on the government’s decision and whether it might affect the pursuit of leakers beyond the Sterling case.

The case is U.S. v. Sterling, 10-cr-485, U.S. District Court, District of Eastern Virginia (Alexandria).

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New York Times reporter James Risen prevailed over the U.S. government in its effort to force him to reveal a confidential source as part of a CIA leak prosecution.
risen, times, cia, leak, source
Monday, 12 January 2015 07:07 PM
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