The Department of Justice has subpoenaed NY Times investigative journalist Jim Risen, to testify in a whistle-blower prosecution involving Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent, whom the DOJ says leaked information to Risen for a story that exposed information on the War on Terror.
However, Risen refused to testify, proclaiming it violates his privilege to refuse to disclose confidential sources and other information obtained during the news-gathering process, or in other words, his first amendment right to freedom of press. Risen was initially subpoenaed by the Bush administration, but it was abandoned. Now it has been revived by Obama lawyers, according to Salon.com.
If Risen is forced to testify and does not comply, he will be jailed. This case is akin to the not-so popular WikiLeaks supporters, who leaked other classified information regarding the U.S. government and refused to disclose their sources.
The exposed information, which Risen published in the NY Times and his book “State of War,” accused the Bush administration of spying on Americans without warrants, pressuring CIA to use torture on detainees, and ignoring information that showed that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, among other things. Considering the sensitive allegations, Sterling is being charged with providing classified information intended to cripple Iran’s nuclear program, and now the DOJ is attempting to use Risen’s testimony to prosecute him.
“I take very seriously my obligations as a journalist when reporting about matters that may be classified or may implicate national security concerns,” Risen said in his affidavit.
“If I believe that the publication of the information would cause real harm to our national security, I will not publish a piece. I have found, however, that all too frequently, the government claims that publication of certain information will harm national security, when in reality, the government’s real concern is about covering up its own wrongdoing or avoiding embarrassment.”
Defense lawyers point out that the government concedes it has other admissible evidence to support its allegations. Rather than proving that Risen’s testimony is critical or necessary for their case, prosecutors instead merely state that his testimony would simplify the trial and clarify matters for the jury, Risen’s attorneys argue.
Columnist Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com accused the Obama administration of menacing the American people.
The most odious aspect of this Climate of Fear is that it fundamentally changes how the citizenry thinks of itself and its relationship to the Government. A state can offer all the theoretical guarantees of freedom in the world, but those become meaningless if citizens are afraid to exercise them. In that climate, the Government need not even act to abridge rights; a fearful populace will voluntarily refrain on its own from exercising those rights.