JAMES RISEN was prepared to go to jail to protect his source. In 2006 the New York Times reporter (pictured) published a book that revealed a covert American plot, in which a former Russian scientist fed flawed nuclear component designs to Iran. It claimed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had bungled the operation. The Justice Department promptly began investigating who had leaked the classified information, and identified Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA employee who was suing the agency for racial discrimination, as the likely culprit. It duly subpoenaed Mr Risen, the only witness to this illegal disclosure. But he refused to name his contact, to whom he had promised anonymity.
The last time prosecutors tried to make a reporter reveal a source, Judith Miller, who also wrote for the Times, spent 85 days in jail in 2005 for keeping mum. Barack Obama’s administration has pursued leakers with unprecedented aggression: the government has charged nine alleged leakers on his watch, compared with three under all previous presidents. Mr Risen challenged the subpoena, claiming that freedom of the press exempted journalists...Continue reading