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New York Times reporter avoids prison for withholding source’s identity

Attorney General Eric Holder will not force The New York Times journalist James Risen to reveal his source on a botched CIA initiative to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear program. In 2006 Risen revealed in a book that the CIA had tried to feed the Iranians false information on refining nuclear fuel for weapons. Justice Department prosecutors wanted Risen to testify in the trial of a former CIA agent, Jeffrey Sterling, accused of leaking classified information. Risen would have faced prison if he refused. (NRP, December 12, 2014, by Camila Domonoske)

A Justice Department official who asked for anonymity said Risen could still be subpoenaed to testify at Sterling’s trial raising questions of just what prosecutors might ask of Risen. If he refuses to testify the judge could find him in contempt of court. There is some speculation about whether Risen could be asked about other matters apart from his source. The press is concerned that the Obama administration crackdown on government officials for leaking classified information is hurting efforts to report on national security. (The New York Times, December 13, 2014, by Scott Shane)

Mike Masnick in Techdirt, December 15, 2014, points out the irony in the news that the Justice Department would not force Risen to testify about his source. Apparently the DOJ leaked the news to the media. the administration has come down hard on those leaking classified information but when the information even when it could “compromise national security” makes the administration look good, there is no frenetic investigation.

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