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U.S. Government steps up its efforts to track down journalist sources.

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 battle.

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 jury subpoenas.”

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.”

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By MrJim on 4/16/2008 1:19:10 PM , Rating: 1
In Sweden this is illegal, to locate a source from a journalist. Isnt it so in the US? Seems fucked up indeed.

RE: Strange?
By Master Kenobi on 4/16/2008 3:04:32 PM , Rating: 4
The "reporters sources are confidential" is bullshit. Protecting someone who has committed treason (by leaking classified information) is pretty screwed up. But these journalists believe they can get away with it. Time for that to end.

RE: Strange?
By FITCamaro on 4/16/2008 3:46:12 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. The press has taken its "freedoms" too far. Reporters, like the rest of us, should be accountable for their actions.

RE: Strange?
By KristopherKubicki on 4/16/2008 4:18:20 PM , Rating: 2
Protecting someone who has committed treason (by leaking classified information) is pretty screwed up.

Reporters too often sit on their high horses, citing they cannot ethically divulge sources. As you claim, there's no legal basis for this.

But what is treason versus whisteblowing. Laws get changed and reversed based on public opinion. Here's a novel idea: if you're going to run a covert and secret spy program, hire people who don't feel compelled to leak it to journalists. Maybe then they won't feel ethically obliged to leak it to the media then. (oh, and I find it really hard to believe that the world's most capable intelligence service can't figure out who leaked this info without twisting this jounalist's arm.)

If I was this guy though, I wouldn't even bother trying to fight it. What's 6 months in white collar jail for contempt going to do other than give him some time to work on his book?

RE: Strange?
By Darkskypoet on 4/16/08, Rating: -1
RE: Strange?
By Master Kenobi on 4/16/2008 8:17:27 PM , Rating: 3
Wasn't the leaking of the CIA Agents Identity, one MS. Plume; then Treason? Why is that person not dead? Death penalty for treason during war you know.

There was never a conviction because leaking the identify of a covert CIA operative was never awarded. They nailed a few people for perjury but nobody was ever convicted for the CIA leak simply because the person was outside of the 5 or so year window at which time it's no longer illegal to give that out. It was nothing more than a media circus that was blown so far out of proportion it became a running joke (and still is to this very day).

The notion of the Freedom of the Press, is that the People needed yet another Check and Balance to the State. So I ask again, treason against whom?

Freedom of the press is abused. Back in wars past you did not see the press openly criticizing the government during war times, it was generally reporting on the road to victory for our boys over seas (See WW1/2). Now it's nothing more than an intelligence method for our enemies. The "Press" gives out far too much confidential information to enemies of the U.S. without a second thought. I'm amazed by the lack of support for their own country.

The People were supposed to form the important part of the state, not the government, or massive bureaucracies, or security agencies. If this can be reasonably construed as damaging to the people, then it is completely under the purview of the 'free press' to report it.

I fail to see how a wiretapping program on calls that are coming in from overseas and from calls here that go overseas is damaging to the people. Perhaps damaging to people who are doing shit and might get caught. Damaging to Billy calling his girlfriend in Europe? Nope.

If an individual within one or many of these agencies came forward because of issues (moral or otherwise) with certain acts. The press then has a duty to report it. The source stays protected so that we will know of these things.

Many times these clowns are looking to stick it to their boss(es) because they got shafted at work. Most of them have spotty track records and a problem with authority. Very rarely do you see a good employee blowing any whistles, usually the malcontents who are looking to stick it to the man. Then there's the fact that these reporters can bribe, encourage, and use any number of questionable information gathering methods.

I will leave the other sections alone since they just state ideology.

RE: Strange?
By Viditor on 4/16/08, Rating: 0
RE: Strange?
By nofranchise on 4/17/08, Rating: 0
RE: Strange?
By ebakke on 4/17/2008 11:36:08 AM , Rating: 2
What in his response do you find objectionable? In reading all of the posts, it seems that the general take is: Journalists should write about violations of law and liberty if they find them. Those trusted with classified information, should be legally held responsible for sharing that with others.

RE: Strange?
By Frallan on 4/17/2008 4:34:11 AM , Rating: 2
If I had a -1 you would get it.

Deep loss of respect!

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA
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