Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Risen Refuses to Name Names


New York Times journalist James Risen. (photo: Corbis)

Risen Refuses to Name Names

By Wilson Dizard, Al Jazeera America
06 January 15

James Risen took the witness stand in U.S. District Court and provided confounding answers to a federal prosecutor seeking information about one of Risen’s confidential sources.

This source — never named by Risen, but said by the government to be a one-time CIA officer named Jeffrey Sterling — allegedly provided classified information to Risen about U.S. means of disrupting Iran’s nuclear program. Risen included some of that information in his book, State of War, in 2006. This revelation did not go over particularly well with the agency or the DOJ.

The government had wanted to compel Risen to testify, on threat of jailing for contempt if he refused to name his confidential source. Risen remained adamant, however, saying he would go to jail rather than give up the name of someone he’d promised anonymity.

Prosecutors have said in the past that they cannot prove their case without Risen’s cooperation.
Although Justice took back threats of imprisonment against Risen last month, they still wanted him to confirm that he had a confidentiality agreement with someone and that he and his source communicated with each other in Virginia, where the case is being tried.

“I am not going to provide the government with information that they seem to want to use to create a mosaic to prove or disprove certain facts,” Risen told the court.

“In my stories or my book, where I say I had unidentified sources, I had unidentified sources,” Risen repeated during his testimony. “Where I say I had identified sources, I had identified sources.”

If the government is able to force reporters to break confidentiality agreements, it could undermine journalists’ credibility with some of their sources. It also weakens the institution of investigative journalism, which sometimes relies on whistleblowers who might, for fear of losing a job or suffering other forms of retaliation, need to keep their names out of the press.

© 2015 Reader Supported News

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