In the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer who is accused of leaking classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen, a federal appeals court has ruled that Risen will have to testify. The court stated:
The subpoena for Risen’s testimony was not issued in bad faith or for the purpose of harassment. Risen is not being called upon to give information bearing only a remote and tenuous relationship to the subject of the investigation, and there is no reason to believe that his testimony implicates confidential source relationship without a legitimate need of law enforcement.’
The court was divided on the issue; Chief Judge William Traxler wrote in the court’s opinion that “Clearly Risen’s direct and first-hand account of the criminal conduct indicted by the grand jury cannot be obtained by alternative means,”but Judge Roger Gregory dissented, arguing that Risen’s testimony was “By no means pertinent . . . The paramount importance of a free press guaranteed by our constitution compels me to conclude that the First Amendment encompasses a qualified reporter’s privilege. Risen must be protected from disclosing the identity of his confidential sources.”
Only last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that changes in the Department of Justice’s leak investigations will make it more restrictive in efforts by prosecutors to obtain telephone records and other private information of journalists.