James Risen of The New York Times insists that he shouldn’t have to testify in the upcoming CIA leak trial, not just because as a reporter he shouldn’t have to reveal his sources, but also because of the Attorney General’s own new policy concerning subpoenaing reporters. So Risen wants a meeting with Eric Holder to talk it all over.
James Risen was recently denied an exemption from testifying about his sources for a 2006 book he wrote about a CIA plot to trip up Iran’s nuclear program. An appeals court decided that the subpoena was issued in accordance with the law.
“The subpoena for Risen’s testimony was not issued in bad faith or for the purpose of harassment,” the court’s majority concluded in July. “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.”
Since that July ruling, however, Eric Holder’s Department of Justice issued updated rules concerning journalists. This change came after Holder’s office was heavily criticized for its snooping into phone records of the Associated Press.
It is this change that Risen says should preclude his testimony.
In a letter to AG Holder, Risen’s attorneys said it would be “utterly inconsistent” with Holder’s new guidelines for the government to insist that he testify.
“We are, of course, well aware that the Department of Justice has previously urged on the Court of Appeals…that ‘no circumstantial evidence or combination thereof is as probative as a [reporter’s] testimony or as certain to forcelose the possibility of reasonable doubt’ because ‘a reporter is the only witness to the crime,” wrote Risen’s attorney, David Kelley. “That position was persuasive as a matter of law to two of the three members of the Court. But it rests with you and the DOJ to determine what approach to take as a matter of ongoing policy.”
“You may follow the route set forth in your new Guidelines….Such an approach would, we think, inevitably lead you to abandon the effort to require Mr. Risen to testify,” Kelley said.
Politico also reported that Risen isn’t putting all his eggs in one legal basket. If he cannot get that meeting with Holder, his legal team has also filed a petition seeking a rehearing of the case by the full bench of the 4th Circuit.
Risen continues to insist that he won’t reveal his sources.