The U.S. Justice Department subpoenaed New York Times reporter James Risen on Monday to testify at the criminal trial of a former CIA operative cited in Risen’s 2006 book.
The New York Times reported that federal prosecutors are seeking information about the CIA operative Jeffrey Sterling, who allegedly leaked information to Risen about the intelligence agency’s campaign to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program during the Clinton administration.
“His testimony is directly relevant to, and powerful evidence of, facts that are squarely at issue in this trial — including the identity of the perpetrator,” a motion filed in support of the subpoena said.
“I am going to fight this subpoena,” Risen said. “I will always protect my sources, and I think this is a fight about the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.”
Risen successfully moved to quash an earlier government subpoena last year.
In a chapter of Risen’s book, “State of War,” he described a CIA plan to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program by sending a Russian agent to sell fatally flawed weapons blueprints to the Iranians.
The Justice Deparment claimed that Risen should be compelled to provide information “like any other citizen” and that he was not “being harassed in order to disrupt his relationship with confidential news sources.”
“In issuing subpoenas to members of the media, the Department seeks to strike the proper balance between the public’s interest in the free dissemination of information and effective law enforcement,” Laura Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, told the Times.
“We make every reasonable effort to attempt to obtain information from alternative sources before even considering a subpoena to a member of the press, and only seek information essential to directly establishing innocence or guilt.”
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