A reporter for the New York Times claims that federal investigators harassed him by obtaining his personal bank records, travel records and information about his phone calls while trying to find the source of an intelligence leak.
In his 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” author and New York Times reporter James Risen describes a CIA effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions by secretly providing them with faulty blueprints. In the end, a Russian defector working for the CIA exposed the plot.
Risen was subpoenaed twice to testify about his sources. The first grand jury was was dissolved before he could be forced to testify. For reasons that have not been revealed, US District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema quashed the second subpoena last year.
Early this year, authorities arrested former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling and charged him with six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and one count of unlawfully keeping national defense information, mail fraud, unauthorized conveyance of government property and obstructing justice.
Sterling, who has pleaded not guilty, allegedly gave a journalist confidential information about the nuclear weapons capabilities of “Country A” and “a person linked to this operation.”
Sterling allegedly gave the information in 2003, for an article that wasn’t published, and in 2006 to the same reporter, this time for a book.
Authorities did not name the country, the “national newspaper” nor the journalist, but the dates and details point to Risen and his 2006 book.
Sterling’s defense team, Ed MacMahon Jr. and Barry Pollack, recently filed a motion in federal court in Alexandra that revealed the prosecution had turned over “various telephone records showing calls made by the author James Risen. It has provided three credit reports — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian — for Mr. Risen. It has produced Mr. Risen’s credit card and bank records and certain records of his airline travel.”
“We’ve argued that I was a victim of harassment by the government. This seems to bolster that,” he said. “Maybe I should ask them what my credit score is.”
“Third-party subpoenas are really, really invidious,” Jane Kirtley, a University of Minnesota law professor and former director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, noted. “Even if it is targeted, even if they’re trying to just look at the relevant stuff, they’re inevitably going to get material that exposes other things.”
“It’s the same thing as if the cops go to someone’s office with a search warrant and say, ‘Give us the information we want and we won’t tear the place apart,’” she added. “If you say ‘tear the place apart,’ all kinds of confidential information that you don’t think the police should have is going to end up in their hands.”
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