Times Reporter Ordered to Testify in Leaks Case

James Risen expected to appeal in case with free-press implications

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 19, 2013 5:48 PM CDT

(Newser) – A reporter for the New York Times has been ordered by an appeals court in Virginia to testify against the man accused of slipping him classified CIA secrets, reports USA Today. James Risen has previously promised to appeal all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary and to go to jail rather than testify if he eventually loses, reports the Times. The ruling is a "blow to investigative reporting in America," says the story in the UK's Guardian. The background here is that Risen wrote a 2006 book that recounted the CIA's efforts to dupe Iranian scientists. A few years later, the government charged CIA operative Jeffrey Sterling with giving Risen the classified information.

"There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify … in criminal proceedings," says the ruling. A dissenting judge said "the majority exalts the interests of the government while unduly trampling those of the press." The decision comes as Eric Holder has taken steps to ease up on the Justice Department's aggressive legal tactics against journalists.

The New York Times building.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
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