Feds allegedly spied on New York Times reporter to find intel. leak

By David Edwards
Friday, February 25, 2011 12:37 EDT
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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.”

Risen told Politico that he felt “like the target of spying.”

“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.”

– with AFP

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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  • Anonymous

    The Soviets would’ve be proud of our “Authorities”.

  • Anonymous

    The teabaggers are always screaming about freedom and liberty and smaller government. I wonder if this will even make their radar.

  • YeaSayer

    It’s time to dust off the F-word: Fascism.

  • Anonymous

    Nope. And Rison writes things that make their war mongering heroes look bad, so no, not on the radar of those morons.
    Besides, most of them are Fox drones, so whatever IHateAmericaHannity or Beck says is the path, the path to deep ignorance that is. And the Fox line ‘O bull is Rison writes the truth about the neocon madmen so he equals the enemy. Same clown act every single day fromFox.

  • Anonymous

    The ever creeping fascism in America, the dust has been off for a while! Seems to be getting creepier by the day.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. But it’s not just Fox. They are merely the worst offender. I doubt even the “mainstream” media will give this the coverage that it deserves. You would think that all journalists would WANT to scream about this at the top of their lungs as evidence of how important their job is and how under attack they are.

  • NadePaulKuciGravMcKi


  • Anonymous

    And the government is not supposed to investigate to find the source of unauthorized disclosures? Surely it’s obvious that the kind of intelligence information mentioned in the article was likely obtained initially from an enemy insider, and the disclosure makes the enemy’s leadership aware that someone on their staff has given the info to the U.S. That could cause the source to be lost and possibly even an individual killed.