‘Harassed’ US journalist fights to protect source

A Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times journalist is being pressured by the Obama administration to reveal the identity of a whistleblower.

James Risen, who wrote extensively about the Bush administration’s domestic wiretapping programme, has been issued a subpoena forcing him to testify as part of the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent whom the DOJ alleges leaked details of a failed US agency plot to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear programme.

Risen wrote about the plot in his bestselling book State of War, which included:

explosive revelations about a series of illegal or potentially illegal actions taken by President [George W.] Bush, including the domestic wiretapping program. It also disclosed how President Bush secretly pressured the CIA to use torture on detainees in secret prisons around the world; how the White House and CIA leadership ignored information before the 2003 invasion of Iraq that showed that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction; documented how, in the aftermath of the invasion, the Bush Administration punished CIA professionals who warned that the war in Iraq was going badly; showed how the Bush Administration turned a blind eye to Saudi involvement in terrorism; and revealed that the CIA’s intelligence operations on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Iran and other countries were completely dysfunctional, and even reckless.

According to Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald, Risen’s subpoena was originally issued but then abandoned by the Bush administration, before later being "revitalised by Obama lawyers."

The Subpoena, Risen claims, is the latest in a campaign of government harassment that began under the Bush administration. In a 22-page affidavit submitted to the court on 21 June, he alleges his phone calls have in the past been tracked to "root out [my] confidential sources".

He adds:

"The administration was embarrassed by the disclosures I made in the course of my reporting for State of War as well as in The New York Times, and eventually singled me out as a target for political harassment.

"I believe that the investigation that led to this prosecution started because of my reporting on the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. The Bush White House was furious over that story. I believe that this investigation started as part of an effort by the Bush Administration to punish me and silence me, following the publication of the NSA wiretapping story. I was told by a reliable source that Vice President Dick Cheney pressured the Justice Department to personally target me because he was unhappy with my reporting and wanted to see me in jail."

Risen has vowed protect his sources at any cost, and is believed to be willing to go to jail in order to do so. "This is a fight to defend the First Amendment and freedom of the press," he told ABC News.