A former government official was
recently presented with presented with extensive phone records of his
interactions with James Risen, a reporter for the New York Times and
author of the book, “State of War.”
The investigation concerns a series of leaks, reported by Risen in State of
War and with associate Eric Lichtblau in the Times, which lead to the
discovery of an “extensive,
off-the-books domestic spying program” later confirmed by the Bush
Administration. Justice Department officials confirmed that prosecutors
subpoenaed Risen’s phone records in an effort to ferret out his sources, and
sources close to the investigation indicated that at least one former
government official has already been questioned.
The Times’ source, a grand jury witness speaking on anonymity, said
he was not clear whose records the DoJ is accessing, noting that it’s possible
that investigators could target Risen’s phone records, or the records of the
officials he may have spoken with. The Times also reports that it has,
thus far, not received any subpoenas, though it notes that it’s possible the
government could subpoena its phone company without the giving the Times anynotice.
Justice Department officials served Risen a subpoena earlier this year
January, demanding the sources for a specific chapter in State of War that
details a CIA plan to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program.
Joel Kurtzberg, the New York attorney representing Risen on behalf of his
employer and publisher, declined to comment.
Risen’s reporting set a climate that helped propel evidence of an
AT&T/NSA wiretapping alliance into the limelight, galvanizing the civil
rights groups to action and setting telcos and the Bush Administration aflame.
The government is currently moving to crush the resulting lawsuits by invoking
the State Secrets privilege, which have the potential of quickly ending the
His articles – which won him a shared Pulitzer Prize in 2006 – are just the
latest target of a government seemingly intent on punishing reporters that fail
to cooperate. Times reporter Judith Miller spent nearly three months in
jail after refusing to divulge her sources in a leak that identified a C.I.A.
operative, and California freelance reporter Josh Wolf spent over half a year
in jail after he refused to testify before a grand jury and hand over
videotapes of an anarchist
rally in San Francisco that turned violent. In Wolf’s case, a three-judge
panel in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that his behavior was in
defiance of the “long-established obligation of a reporter to comply with grand
Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press executive director Lucy A.
Daiglish warned reporters of the Bush Administration’s “really egregious”
efforts at intimidation, telling press members to spur technology and “do your
reporting the old fashioned way – meet your sources on a park bench.”