Why Is the Government Subpoenaing NYT Reporter?

James Risen goes to court for his CIA book

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New York Times reporter James Risen has been subpoenaed by the Department of Justice, which is demanding that Risen reveal his source for information in his 2006 book, State of War. The DoJ wants to know how Risen, whose book discusses the Bush administration's relationship with the CIA, found out about a secret program to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program. Why is the Obama administration going after the reporter for something that happened during the Bush presidency?

  • Obama Follows Bush's Lead Talking Points Memo's Justin Elliott calls this "Following in the footsteps of the Bush Administration. ... Risen was first subpoenaed about the matter during the Bush Administration, in February 2008. ... This is the second public example of the Obama DOJ aggressively pursuing leak cases. Earlier this month, a former National Security Agency official was charged with crimes in connection with alleged leaks to then-Baltimore Sun reporter Siobhan Gorman."
  • Bush Was Right, So Is Obama  The Weekly Standard's Gabriel Schoenfeld says Bush's original subpoena "was widely cited as just another instance in which the supposedly ultra-secretive Bush administration was waging war on the press." That Obama has followed suit now proves "that the revelation of secrets, particularly those involving ongoing classified intelligence programs, can place us all at risk?"
  • Contrast With Obama's Inaction on Bush's Wiretapping  Reason's Jesse Walker quotes an old post by Julian Sanchez: "The contrast [with] the non-reaction to other forms of lawbreaking makes the standard in effect for Bush-era misdeeds clear: If you illegally gathered information on members of the public, Obama's DOJ would rather let sleeping dogs lie. If you illegally tried to get information to the public, you'd better lawyer up."
  • Contract With Obama Inaction on CIA Torture   Liberal blogger John Cole drips with sarcasm. "It's just a damned shame Risen didn't torture anyone. I'm serious- can't Risen just claim he tortured someone to get the information, but destroyed the tapes?" Cole asks, referencing CIA defenses about its torture program. "Then mumble something about a few bad apples. Doesn't that get you a pass under the current rules?"
  • Will He Go to Jail?  Gawker's Hamilton Nolan predicts, "James Risen could be the next Judy Miller. Not Judy Miller in the sense of being a government patsy; Judy Miller in the sense of sitting in jail in order to protect sources." New York Times reporter Judy Miller took prison time in 2005 rather than reveal her sources under a similar subpoena.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.