Justices Reject Appeal Over Identity of Reporter’s Source

     (CN) – The Supreme Court on Monday refused to grant certiorari in the case of James Risen, a New York Times reporter facing jail for refusing to identify a confidential source.
     The case pitted the evidentiary rights of prosecutors in national security cases against the freedom of the press. The justices rejected the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist’s appeal without explanation.
     The case arose from a subpoena to Risen seeking information about his source for a chapter of his 2006 book “State of War.”
     As previously reported by Courthouse News, the chapter focuses on “Operation Merlin,” a botched attempt by the CIA to have a former Russian scientist pass obviously fake nuclear blueprints to Iran.
     Prosecutors claim Risen based his account on information he received from former CIA operative Jeffrey Sterling.
     Sterling now stands accused under the Espionage Act for mishandling national defense information, and the government says Risen alone can identify Sterling as his source.
     U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema denied prosecutors’ repeated requests to compel Risen to identify his source, finding that Risen has qualified reporter’s privilege under the First Amendment.
     But the 4th Circuit reversed in July 2013, finding that “there is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in, absent a showing of bad faith, harassment, or other such non-legitimate motive, even though the reporter promised confidentiality to his source.”
     The 4th Circuit had stayed proceedings in the case pending the Supreme Court decision. Itis now expected to act swiftly to compel Risen to testify.

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