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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 pxavierperez on 4/16/2008 8:35:00 PM , Rating: 2
This issue does not really concern freedom of speech. It's about an oath .

A real and experienced journalist would not reveal the identity of his source once he has given his word not to. It's very much close to a lawyer and client confidentiality agreement . Any professional journalists who had worked for established media like the Times understand this.

A respectable journalist will and must protect his source at no matter the costs.

A pity that with the increased popularity of the internet that journalism have somewhat degraded. Now any one can create a website or a blog and call themselves journalists.

By Ringold on 4/16/2008 11:51:50 PM , Rating: 3
Respectable journalist? There was a time when that was quite an oxymoron, and due to the efforts of 'respectable journalists' at places like the New York Times, those days are rapidly on their way back in. To what lengths they go to protect their sources has little to do with that shift.

Journalists should be more worried about their integrity with respect to not allowing their own political bias find its way in to their work and fighting back against bias originating with editors and management, and less worried about if they reveal some idiot leaking state secrets.

By nofranchise on 4/17/2008 3:49:51 AM , Rating: 1
Any professional journalists who had worked for established media like the Times understand this.

Any professional journalist who has worked anywhere with sensitive information and anonymous sources should understand this.

I work as a professional journalist, and believe me - as I am sure you are aware - not all professional journalists understand it.

It is our duty to speak up if wrongs are committed. No one is above the law - not even the lawmakers - and their wrongdoings should be brought to light, even if it means breaking a law in the process. That is the idea of the journalist watchdog.

Societies where journalists are exempt from the privilege of protecting sources, are totalitarian states. But of course Guantanamo made sure we already knew what the US has become.

If you gag the watchdog, you've certainly killed freedom of speech.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh
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