June 30th, 2011
FOI DAILY DOSE: NYT reporter may be forced to testify, whistleblowers ask Congress to help protect them
NYT reporter James Risen may not be able to quash subpoena
The third time may not be a charm for New York Times reporter James Risen, who may not be able to quash yet another subpoena from the Justice Department.
Risen filed a motion to quash a subpoena last week that would require him to testify in a criminal court case against ex-CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who is accused of leaking information to the reporter about a CIA operation to harm Iran’s nuclear program.
The information on the program was reportedly published in Risen’s 2006 book “State of War.”
A November 2010 ruling by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, which was made public Tuesday, said that the second subpoena against Risen would be quashed.
But Brinkema also said in the ruling that the longtime NYT reporter may have a tough time escaping a subpoena requiring him to testify in the case, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
With a criminal trial like Sterling’s, Brinkema said in the ruling that the government may fulfill the legal standard needed to beat Risen’s motion to quash.
If the subpoena holds up, Risen – who has said he won’t reveal any confidential sources – could go to jail for refusing to testify.
Whistleblowers ask Congress for more protections
More than 30 whistleblowers signed an open letter promoting the need for President Obama and Congress to provide better whistleblower protections.
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2010 passed in both the House and the Senate, but was kept from becoming law by an anonymous hold that killed the bill at the end of the congressional session in Dec. 2010.
As of this week, it’s been six months since the bill – then in its third version – died in Congress.
The letter calls for Congress to quickly bring back a reincarnated version of the whistleblower protection bill and finally get it enacted into law, according to a Project on Government Oversight blog post.
– Morgan Watkins
Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).