If Eric Holder wants to force James Risen to reveal a confidential source or go to jail, it looks like Holder could get his way after the Supreme Court today declined to take an appeal from NY Times reporter James Risen.

WaPo elaborates on the background of the case:

In a 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” Risen detailed classified information about the CIA’s efforts to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. Prosecutors want Risen to testify in its prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA analyst.

A district judge had said Risen did not have to testify. But a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond disagreed in a 2 to 1 decision. The majority said that under Supreme Court precedent, the First Amendment does not protect reporters from revealing who supplied them with unauthorized leaks.

“Risen’s direct, firsthand account of the criminal conduct indicted by the grand jury cannot be obtained by alternative means, as Risen is without dispute the only witness who can offer this critical testimony,’’ wrote Circuit Judge William Byrd Traxler Jr.

The NY Times reports on the significance of today’s court action, Supreme Court Rejects Appeal From Reporter Over Identity of Source:

The Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal from James Risen, a New York Times reporter facing jail for refusing to identify a confidential source.

The court’s one-line order gave no reasons but effectively sided with the government in a confrontation between what prosecutors said is an imperative to secure evidence in a national security prosecution and what journalists said is an intolerable infringement of press freedom.

The case arose from a subpoena to Mr. Risen seeking information about his source for a chapter of his 2006 book “State of War.” Prosecutors say they need Mr. Risen’s testimony to prove that the source was Jeffrey Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency official.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., ordered Mr. Risen to comply with the subpoena. Mr. Risen has said he will refuse.

“I will continue to fight,” Mr. Risen said on Monday….

But Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. hinted last week that the Justice Department might choose not to ask the trial judge to jail Mr. Risen for contempt should he refuse to testify.

I’m guessing no jail. After all, the book was an exposé of the Bush administration.


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