Supreme Court Forces Reporter to Testify Against His Alleged CIA Source

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Update, 12:23 p.m. Risen emailed his official response to the Supreme Court's ruling to the Washington's Post's Erik Wemple: "I will continue to fight."

Original: The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from New York Times reporter James Risen, who is being ordered to testify about his sources by the CIA in a hunt to prove who leaked classified documents and information for his book. 

The New York Times reports the court "effectively sided with the government" with its one-line order that informed both sides it would not get involved in the dispute. Federal prosecutors want Risen to testify against alleged CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling. Risen has so far indicated he will refuse to testify. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Virginia originally rejected Risen's bid to avoid taking the stand. 

Federal prosecutors want to question Risen to prove Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency official, was the source of information for a chapter in State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, Risen's 2006 book about a foiled CIA operation in Iran. Sterling allegedly told Risen about a 2000 CIA plot to have an Russian scientist sell a faulty nuclear triggering device to Iran that would disrupt their system. Sterling was not kind in his retelling, calling it a "botched" plan.

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Risen, who shared a byline with Lauren Poitras on Sunday's A1 New York Times about NSA data collection, has been the poster boy for an ongoing dispute between reporters who think the Obama administration's war on leakers has infringed on press freedoms, and a government keen to eliminate internal leaks. Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder assured a group of journalists that he would protect reporters from prosecution. "As long as I’m attorney general, no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail. As long as I’m attorney general, someone who is doing their job is not going to get prosecuted," Holder said. The Justice Department later refused to clarify whether Holder was speaking specifically about Risen's case, or merely making a general statement. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.