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Government: Three Subpoenas, Spying on Times Reporter is Not Harassment

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The government’s motion filed May 23 to compel New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal his sources in federal court contains the following sentence: “Put simply, there is no basis to conclude that the criminal proceeding is being conducted in anything but good faith, that the reporter is being harassed in order to disrupt his relationship with confidential news sources…”

Yesterday, I explored this curious case in which the government is trying to force Risen to finger former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling as his source for a chapter in Risen’s 2006 book “State of War.” The CIA was embarrassed by a chapter in that book that alleges the agency tried to leak the Iranians faulty nuclear weapon blueprints, but the Iranians caught on. I noted in that post that the government had previously subpoenaed Risen in the Sterling case. Risen could have gone to jail for that, but judge Leonie Brinkema quashed that subpoena last November.

The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer notes today that this is, in fact, the third time the government has tried to make Risen choose between divulging his sources for the book or go to jail.

She points out that the Bush administration first subpoenaed Risen back in 2008. That subpoena expired. In 2010, the Obama Justice Department subpoenaed Risen again, this time to testify in Sterling’s grand jury proceedings, but Brinkema quashed that one last November. The May 23 subpoena makes three.

And as I noted yesterday, records in the Sterling case also show that federal law-enforcement officials had obtained Risen’s credit reports, credit-card and bank statements, and airline-travel itineraries.

All of this has taken place since Risen in 2005 exposed the massive warrantless domestic-surveillance program. Could be a coincidence. Just don’t call it harassment.

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