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NYT Reporter Asks SCOTUS to Review ‘Reporters Privilege’ Case

Supreme Court previously ruled against journalistic privilege

Wikimedia Commons
• January 13, 2014 5:13 pm

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New York Times journalist James Risen petitioned the Supreme Court to recognize his right as a reporter to not be compelled to testify in a petition filed Monday.

Risen’s lawyers argued the nation’s highest court should take up his case to resolve conflicting rulings among lower courts regarding the existence and scope of so-called "reporter’s privilege" under the First Amendment.

A federal grand jury subpoenaed Risen in 2008, and then again in 2010, for allegedly incorporating classified information he received from former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling into a chapter of his 2006 book, State of War.

Risen appealed, arguing his role as a reporter shields him from being forced to reveal his sources.

Federal prosecutors wrote in 2012 that Risen has no reporter’s privilege protecting him.

"Contrary to Risen’s claim, the ‘newsworthiness’ of the information has no bearing on whether he should be required to disclose his source," prosecutors wrote. "The ‘newsworthiness’ of the information is irrelevant to whether Sterling committed a crime, and it is irrelevant to whether Risen, like any other citizen, must testify concerning his knowledge of that crime."

The Supreme Court ruled in the 1972 case Branzburg v. Hayes that the First Amendment does not shield reporters from federal prosecution. However, lower courts have struggled to interpret the decision in the years since.

Risen’s attorneys also said reporter’s privilege is necessary for investigative reporting.

"Every day in newsrooms across this country, reporters gather information of enormous import to the public from sources who only agree to disclose that information if the reporters will keep their identities confidential," Risen’s lawyers wrote.

Sterling’s case has been put on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision of whether to grant review.

Published under: Obama Administration