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New York Times Reporter Wins CIA Leak Case
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James Risen will not have to testify in an upcoming trial about a CIA leak.Summary: After three years of fighting, the government has agreed to drop reporter James Risen from their witness list in an upcoming trial.

According to Bloomberg, New York Times reporter James Risen has prevailed against the federal government in a three-year battle over Risen’s potential testimony at a trial.

The U.S. government has tried to force Risen to testify during an upcoming trial about a confidential informant in a CIA leak prosecution case. The request was the final attempt the government made to discover Risen’s sources. Finally, Risen was struck from the witness list. The trial was scheduled to begin this week, The New York Times added.


Risen was to be called as a witness in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent who is accused of leaking confidential information about Iran for his book, “State of War,” which was released in 2006.

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The fight has even reached the Supreme Court, with focus on the Obama administration’s hunt for leaks. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released guidelines last year that would restrict the subpoena power and search warrants against journalists.

On January 5, Risen stated to a judge that he refused to answer questions that may reveal sources on his report on the failed CIA program. The ultimate goal of the program was to provide false nuclear weapon information to Iran.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had also previously denied rehearing Risen’s case.

When prosecutors agreed to release Risen from testifying, they explained that calling him as a witness “would simply frustrate the truth-seeking function of the trial.”

In addition, the prosecution moved to have the court prevent the defense from using Risen’s failure to appear as evidence that the prosecution did not meet the requisite burden of proof. The defense had argued that Risen’s statements were sufficient justification for throwing the case out.

During Obama’s terms as president, there have been at least seven Americans charged with disclosing national defense material to reporters under the Espionage Act of 1917. Sterling is included in that group.

In June, the Supreme Court upheld a U.S. appeals court ruling against Risen. The court refused to hear his argument that a reporter’s privilege should protect journalists from giving up their confidential sources.

Read about the Supreme Court decision here.

Earlier this month, Risen testified that he was “not willing to provide information in any way that will prove or disprove a mosaic the government is trying to make.” Risen would not answer questions that he felt would enable prosecutors to identify his sources, even in an indirect manner.

The New York Times reported in 2008 that Risen had been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in the leak investigation. The investigation was led by the Justice Department under former president George W. Bush.

Previously, the Fourth Circuit had ruled that journalists must identify their sources.

Later, Sterling was charged with 10 various charges in an indictment, including unauthorized conveyance of government property, obstruction of justice, unauthorized retention and communication of national defense information, and mail fraud.

In the middle of 2011, the Obama administration requested that Risen be forced to testify in Sterling’s trial.

The case is U.S. v. Sterling, 10-cr-00485, U.S. District Court, District of Eastern Virginia (Alexandria).

Source: Bloomberg

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