Tag Archive: James Risen

Jan 09 2015

James Risen Still Protecting Press Freedom

Freedom of the Press and Speech have come under attack lately from the and, strangely, from the so-called left. The vicious attack on the office of “Charlie Hebdo” was especially vicious but there are more subtle attacks on our rights from the US Department of Justice. Even though Attorney General Eric Holder has said that he would force New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal the sources for his book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” Holder approved the issue of a limited subpoena requiring Risen to testify at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling who is being charged as a whistleblower under the 1917 Espionage Act. On January 5th in an unusual pre-trial hearing, Risen finally testified, for the first time under oath, in a Virginia federal courtroom

The terse, and at times combative, testimony prompted a lawyer for Sterling to question whether prosecutors could even proceed with their case.

There are many unequivocal statements the government cannot prove without Risen, said Edward MacMahon, a lawyer for Sterling. Sterling was indicted on unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and other charges in 2010. [..]

On Monday, Risen said he did not want to provide any information to the government that it might be able to use as a “building block” to prove or disprove a “mosaic” it was trying to make. He made the comments just days before Sterling is scheduled to begin trial on Jan. 12.

New York Times reporter Mark Appuzo spoke with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and  Juan Gonz├ílez about the possibility of Risen being held in contempt and going to jail

It remains to be seen if Risen will testify at all. If he does and stick to his guns, will Holder stick to his statement that no journalist would go to jail on his watch for doing his or her job?

Dec 19 2014

The Justice Department’s War on Freedom of the Press

In this chapter of the Obama administration’s war on freedom of the press, the cast of character are:

Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, an former employee of the CIA, was indicted, arrested, and charged with violating the Espionage Act in 2010.

James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist for The New York Time, is the author of the book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, which was discussed CIA operations, specifically Operation Merlin.

Mr. Risen was subpoenaed to testify at Mr. Sterling’s trial and would have been asked if Mr. Sterling was the source for the Operation Merlin. He refused and fought the subpoena through the courts. In July 2013, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Mr. Risen would have to testify. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Mr. Risen said that he would not comply and was willing to go to jail. That was not the end of Mr. Risen’s fight to protect a confidential source.

Then in October 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder stated “no reporter’s going to jail as long as I’m attorney general.” On December 10, a federal court judge told prosecutors that they had a week to decide whether they enforce the subpoena.  On this Tuesday, it was announced that Mr. Risen would be subpoenaed to answer questions before the trial but there is some confusion about what those questions are:

Prosecutors say they will not ask James Risen if ex-CIA man Jeffrey Sterling was his anonymous source for part of the 2006 book “State Of War” that detailed a botched CIA effort to cripple Iran’s nuclear program. However, they do want to know if the two had a prior, on-the-record source relationship.

Risen’s lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, said at Tuesday’s hearing that he is not sure whether his client is willing to answer the questions that prosecutors want to pose.

Furthermore, defense attorneys indicated they may also have their own questions, which puts Risen at risk of being found in contempt of court if he refuses to answer. {..}

On Tuesday, though, as prosecutors detailed what they would seek from Risen, it was unclear whether Risen would agree to the limitations. And it became equally clear that Risen may have as much to fear, if not more, from defense lawyers, who would be free to cross-examine Risen and could even seek to subpoena him themselves.

Edward MacMahon, one of Sterling’s lawyers, told Brinkema that “the notion we can sanitize this by limiting (his testimony) to two or three questions is hard for us to fathom.”

He declined comment after the hearing on whether he may seek to subpoena Risen.

Prosecutor James Trump said there is much more uncertainty about the questions Risen might face from the defense than there is about what prosecutors will seek.

Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonz├ílez spoke to Marcy Wheeler, investigative blogger who runs EmptyWheel.net and writes for ExposeFacts.org.



The transcript can be read here

In Plan for Risen Subpoena, Government Raises Sixth Amendment Interests of Jeffrey Sterling

Marcy Wheeler, Expose the Facts

December 16, 2014

The government has now submitted its explanation for the limited information it will seek from James Risen in the Jeffrey Sterling trial and pre-trial hearings.

It will ask him to confirm that:

  •    He has  confidentiality agreement with his source or sources on the Merlin story (though they will not ask who those sources are)
  •    He authored the Merlin chapter of his book State of War, but also one article in which he explicitly and another the government claims he relied on Sterling as a source
  •    He worked with Sterling for one of those earlier stories in a non-confidential relationship

[..]

The last line of the filing, however, suggests ExposeFacts may have correctly predicted their plan. The government raises the possibility Risen will refuse to answer Sterling’s questions.

It’s obvious that the DOJ is behind the eight ball and is praying that the they will not be the reason Mr. Risen ends up behind bars.

May 20 2013

AP-Gate Just Got Worse

Regardless of the left’s opinion of Fox News, the Obama administration has gone way over the constitutional line and this is adds to the serious threat to freedom of the press. The idea that the government. on its unconstrained wild hunt for whistle blowers, can issue secret subpoenas for telephone records just got worse this morning. The case is being made against Fox News reporter James Rosen for his reporting on the possibility that North Korea would respond to additional UN sanctions with more nuclear tests back in 2009. The Department of Justice is prosecuting State Department adviser and arms expert Stephen Jin-Woo Kim for “leaking” the information to James Rosen of Fox News. To makes the case against Rosen this is what the DOJ did:

They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails. [..]

Court documents in the Kim case reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist – and raise the question of how often journalists have been investigated as closely as Rosen was in 2010. The case also raises new concerns among critics of government secrecy about the possible stifling effect of these investigations on a critical element of press freedom: the exchange of information between reporters and their sources.

First, Kim did not obtain these documents illegally, he had access to them, He did not steal or sell the documents, or pass them to an enemy agent of the US. He gave, what is for all intents and purposes, innocuous information to a news reporter. For that Kim is being prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Now the DOJ is seeking to prosecute Rosen for revealing the information.

Glenn Greenwald reiterated that it is not against US law to to publish classified information and is far worse than the secret subpoena of the phone records of the Associated Press:

The focus of the Post’s report yesterday is that the DOJ’s surveillance of Rosen, the reporter, extended far beyond even what they did to AP reporters. The FBI tracked Rosen’s movements in and out of the State Department, traced the timing of his calls, and – most amazingly – obtained a search warrant to read two days worth of his emails, as well as all of his emails with Kim. In this case, said the Post, “investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.” It added that “court documents in the Kim case reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist”.

But what makes this revelation particularly disturbing is that the DOJ, in order to get this search warrant, insisted that not only Kim, but also Rosen – the journalist – committed serious crimes. The DOJ specifically argued that by encouraging his source to disclose classified information – something investigative journalists do every day – Rosen himself broke the law.

In an affidavit (pdf) from the FBI by Agent Reginald B. Reyes in the application for the search warrant, Reyes alleged that because Rosen and Kim used aliases to protect their communications and sought ways to maintain confidentiality, all completely legal for journalists to do, Rosen was acting “much like an intelligence officer would run an [sic] clandestine intelligence source, the Reporter instructed Mr. Kim on a covert communications plan… to facilitate communication with Mr. Kim and perhaps other sources of information.”

In her comparison of this case with the Associated Press, and cases against James Risen of The New York Times and Bradley Manning, Marcy Wheeler notes that Agent Reyes used the strategy of painting Rosen as criminal to circumvent the “Privacy Protection Act protections for media work product” in order to obtain the warrant for Rosen’s e-mails and other records:

In other words, during a period from May 2010 through January 2011, Eric Holder’s DOJ was developing this theory under which journalists were criminals, though it’s just now that we’re all noticing this May 2010 affidavit that lays the groundwork for that theory.

Maybe that development was predictable, given that during precisely that time period, the lawyer who fucked up the Ted Stevens prosecution, William Welch, was in charge of prosecuting leaks (though it’s not clear he had a role in Kim’s prosecution before he left in 2011).

But it’s worth noting the strategy – and the purpose it serves – because it is almost certainly still in effect. FBI Special Agent Reginald Reyes accused Rosen of being a criminal so he could get around the Privacy Protection Act protections for media work product (See pages 4 and following), which specifically exempts “fruits of a crime” or “property … used [] as a means of committing a criminal offense.” Then he further used it to argue against giving notice to Fox or Rosen.

   Because of the Reporter’s own potential criminal liability in this matter, we believe that requesting the voluntary production of the materials from Reporter would be futile and would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation and of the evidence we seek to obtain by the warrant. (29)

While the AP’s phone records weren’t taken via a warrant, it would be unsurprising if the government is still using this formula – journalists = criminals and therefore cannot have notice – to collect evidence. Indeed, that may be one reason why we haven’t seen the subpoena to the AP.

It is very clear that this is an unprecedented threat to freedom of the press and the Obama administration has escalated this war since Obama took office in 2009.

In an interview last week with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, senior fellow at The Nation Institute Chis Hedges, called the monitoring of the AP phone records “one more assault in a long series of assault against freedom of information and freedom of the press.”

“Talk to any investigative journalist who must investigate the government, and they will tell you that there is a deep freeze. People are terrified of speaking, because they’re terrified of going to jail.”

~Chris Hedges~

Here is Mr. Hedges piece from Truthdig documenting The Death of Truth

Other related articles from Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian:

Justice Department’s pursuit of AP’s phone records is both extreme and dangerous

The major sea change in media discussions of Obama and civil liberties