James Risen, New York Times Reporter, Won’t Testify In CIA Leak Case

14 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After Years-Long Legal Battle, New York Times’ James Risen Will Not Testify in Leak Case.

New York Times reporter James Risen will not be called to testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer charged with leaking classified information, the Department of Justice said in court papers filed Monday. District Court in Alexandra, Va., federal prosecutors asked the court to “exclude James Risen as an unavailable witness” and said the jury “should draw no inferences, favorable or unfavorable” based on his absence as a witness.

After multiple efforts to compel the two-time Pulitzer winner to testify—first in 2008 during the Bush administration and again in 2011 under Obama—“the effort to obtain Mr. Calling the Pulitzer Prize winner, who has repeatedly refused to reveal his sources for his 2006 book “State of War,” would “simply frustrate the truth-seeking function of the trial,” prosecutors said. But at a pre-trial hearing on Monday afternoon, US district judge Leonie Brinkema rejected prosecutors’ request after defense lawyers said Risen’s testimony is important to their case.

The Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder faced increasing criticism for a series of moves that targeted journalists in its attempt to crack down on government officials leaking sensitive information. “[T]he crackdown provoked a backlash among journalism groups and civil rights advocates, and as Mr. Holder, who has announced plans to leave office, signaled a change in policy,” according to the Times. “He rewrote the Justice Department’s rules for subpoenaing journalists and said he would not do try to put reporters in jail for doing their jobs.”

Risen’s testimony last week “laid to rest any doubt concerning whether he will ever disclose his source or sources,” prosecutors said. “He will not.” Edward MacMahon, an attorney representing Sterling, confirmed that the defense had withdrawn a subpoena calling on Risen to testify on the defense’s behalf. Sterling is one of at least seven Americans charged with disclosing national defense information to reporters under the Espionage Act of 1917 during Obama’s tenure. The Supreme Court in June left intact an appeals court ruling against Risen and declined to hear his contention that a reporter’s privilege shields journalists from identifying confidential sources. Risen still refused to answer questions that he thought would allow prosecutors to identify sources even indirectly, according to his Jan. 5 testimony. Defense lawyer Edward MacMahon said Risen’s testimony is valuable to the defense and that the government shouldn’t be allowed to erase Risen from the trial just because prosecutors are now choosing not to call him. “He’s not unavailable (to testify) in a legal sense.

He’s politically unavailable is what he is,” MacMahon said. “If the government doesn’t want to call a witness that they said all along is a key witness … that’s just something where they’re going to have to live with the consequences.” However, Risen is not expected to offer live testimony in front of the jury. Left unresolved on Monday was a request by prosecutors for a jury instruction that no inference be drawn against the government because Risen was not called by prosecutors. Holder has said that one of his biggest regrets was labeling James Rosen, a Fox News reporter, a potential co-conspirator for asking about classified information. Holder also led revisions to Justice Department’s guidelines that offer journalists more protections when prosecutors want to review their phone records, emails or notes.

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