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Supreme Court rejects appeal from NY Times reporter James Risen over source

Reporter James Risen, who has refused to reveal a source who divulged details on an operation meant to disrupt Iran's nuclear program, says he's willing to go to jail.

By Gabrielle Levy
Supreme Court rejects appeal from NY Times reporter James Risen over source
UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 2 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court Monday rejected an appeal from a New York Times reporter who has refused to identify a confidential source.

The reporter, James Risen, faces prison time for his refusal to comply with a subpoena to reveal a source for his 2006 book, State of War. Prosecutors say they need Risen's testimony to prove the source was former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling.

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In a one-line ruling, the Supreme Court "effectively sided with the government," the New York Times said, in a case that has been the latest in a string of cases journalists say are devastating violations of freedom of the press.

The Obama administration has aggressively pursued intelligence leaks, prosecuting eight cases, more than the three administrations before it combined. Still, Attorney General Eric Holder said last week he may not press the trial judge to hold Risen in contempt for refusing to testify, and the administration has supported congressional efforts to install a federal shield law to unify a variety of state statutes.

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In a chapter of State of War, Risen describes the events of Operation Merlin, in which the CIA planed to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program through bad information sold by Russian scientists. In 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema quashed the subpoena, telling prosecutors that "a criminal subpoena is not a free pass for the government to rifle through a reporter's notebook."

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Brinkema's decision was later reversed at the Fourth Circuit Court in Richmond, Va., and Risen appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

In January, Risen said he "will go to jail if I have to."

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"I will always protect my sources," he said.

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