A criminal trial subpoena is not a free pass for the government to rifle through a reporter’s notebook
Leonie Brinkema, US Federal Judge. United States of America v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling.
In a case involving an ex-CIA agent accused of revealing classified national security information, the US government tried to force New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal his sources for his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (NPR review and excerpt).
Earlier this month Brinkema ruled Risen would not have to testify.
As explained by Charlie Savage in the New York Times:
The judge wrote that Mr. Risen was protected by a limited “reporter’s privilege” under the First Amendment, meaning that prosecutors had to prove that there was a compelling need for the reporter’s testimony and there that were no other means of obtaining the equivalent of that testimony. The government argued that such a privilege did not exist, but she recounted numerous other cases -– though none as high profile as the C.I.A. leak case -– in which other federal judges had invoked it.