It’s a fairly basic constitutional issue for the press, whether or not there is a reporter’s privilege. It’s something a lot of people outside the press don’t really understand, don’t really care about. I think the basic issue is whether you can have a democracy without aggressive investigative reporting and I don’t believe you can. So that’s why I’m fighting it.
James Risen, reporter, New York Times, in a talk at the National Press Club. ‘Reporter’s Privilege’ Under Fire From Obama Administration Amid Broader War On Leaks.
Background: The Obama Justice Department continues its attempts to force Risen to testify against CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling by arguing that Reporters’ Privilege does not exist when the information revealed is considered illegal.
In this case, the CIA’s Sterling is charged with leaking classified information about a plot against the Iranian government that Risen then used in his book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.
Via the Huffington Post:
While the Obama administration hasn’t prosecuted those responsible for torture during the Bush years, it is taking a strong stand against a former official believed to have supplied information to the media about use of torture and other controversial tactics during the previous administration.
In January, the Justice Department charged former CIA officer John Kiriakou with disclosing classified information to the media; The FBI claims to have evidence linking him to a 2008 New York Times story detailing the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.
In another notable case, the DOJ charged Thomas Drake under the Espionage Act, claiming the former National Security Agency official provided classified information of gross NSA mismanagement to a Baltimore Sun reporter. The government’s case collapsed in 2011 and Drake pleaded guilty only to a misdemeanor.
The crackdown hasn’t gone unnoticed among reporters, with tension recently spilling out into the White House briefing room after the administration praised Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin, journalists who died while covering the bloody conflict in Syria.
Jake Tapper, the senior White House correspondent for ABC News, asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney how public support of those journalists’ work “square[s] with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court.”
“There just seems to be a disconnect here,” Tapper added. “You want aggressive journalism abroad; you just don’t want it in the United States.”