Last week, we noted that Attorney General Eric Holder was hinting that the DOJ was near “a resolution” with reporter James Risen — the NY Times reporter who the DOJ has been harassing and trying to force to give up sources. In a recent interview, Risen makes the rather compelling case, that this effort by the DOJ was never about actually solving any sort of crime (the DOJ knows who did the leak), but rather about totally discrediting and/or punishing Risen for some of his other investigative reports. If the DOJ can undermine the ability of Risen to protect sources, he loses many sources.
Still, at about the same time that Holder was (again) insisting that no journalists would go to jail under his watch and that they were close to a resolution with Risen, the DOJ was exploring the possibility of issuing yet another subpoena on Risen to try (again) to force him to reveal his sources:
Federal prosecutors obtained 100 blank subpoenas last week for use in the upcoming trial of a CIA officer accused of leaking top-secret information to New York Times reporter James Risen.
The move clears the way for the Justice Department to proceed with a new review of whether Risen should be subpoenaed to testify at the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, the CIA employee accused of disclosing details of a CIA effort to set back Iran’s nuclear program.
Some of this is procedural. The DOJ put some new rules in place since the last subpoena, and so there’s an argument that in order to review the possibility of a new Risen subpoena, the DOJ basically has to do all the initial legwork, and then the DOJ (and Holder in particular) will “review” under the new rules before determining whether to try this silly process again or to back down. Of course, that seems silly. It seems much more viable to just come out and say that they won’t subpoena reporters like this and make that a clear and stated rule. But the DOJ seems unwilling to give up this harassment and intimidation tool.
In the end, it seems likely that Holder will fold, but this game of chicken, putting the threat of jail time on Risen to see who blinks first, is really quite disgraceful by the DOJ. So far, Risen has given no indication he intends to comply — and has held to the same story all along, that he will not give up his sources under any circumstance. Holder, on the other hand, has promised not to put a reporter doing his job in jail. If both men live up to their word, Holder is the one who needs to blink, and it’s pretty stupid to go through this whole charade in the meantime.