New York Times reporter will not be forced to testify in CIA leak trial
New York Times reporter James Risen (Screenshot)

New York Times reporter James Risen will not be called to testify in a CIA leak case that has become a flashpoint of contention over press freedom, the newspaper reported on Monday.

The paper reported on its website that the Department of Justice said in filings it would not call Risen to testify in the U.S. government's federal court case against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling.

Sterling's lawyers said on Monday they also would not call Risen to take the stand, after earlier leaving open that possibility, the Times added.

The years-long legal struggle over whether Risen should be forced to testify came to represent the tension between balancing freedom of the press and U.S. national security.

It occurred as President Barack Obama's administration drew criticism for bringing a record number of prosecutions over unauthorized leaks.

The decision by the two sides in the Sterling case not to call Risen as a witness at trial came one week after the journalist testified in the case at a preliminary hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, where he refused to answer all but a few basic questions about his 2006 book "State of War" that detailed a failed CIA effort to undermine Iran's nuclear weapons program.

He would not disclose what information confidential sources provided for his book, where or when he met with unnamed sources or who had not served as a source.

It was Risen's first time appearing under oath on the witness stand in the case.

Sterling was indicted for unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and other charges in 2010.

Risen sought to quash an earlier subpoena requiring him to testify, but an appeals court ruled against him and the Supreme Court declined last year to take up his case.

In December, after a decision from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, prosecutors said they planned to limit the questions they would ask Risen, and would not ask him to name any individuals who provided anonymous information for his book.

Sterling's trial is scheduled to begin this week.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)