Supreme Court Forces 'New York Times' Reporter James Risen To Reveal Sources, But That's Nothing New
The Supreme Court sided with the government Monday when it rejected an appeal from New York Times reporter James Risen, who is facing possible jail time for refusing to identify a source. The one-line decision, essentially presented without comment, will force Risen to testify at the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, who is suspected of leaking information about a confidential CIA operation to Risen.
In March, Risen opened the conference surrounding the George Polk Awards with some, well, very candid, criticisms about the state of press freedom. According to Poynter, Risen said the Obama administration was "the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation."
Tell us how you really feel, James! I imagine that sentiment has only been reinforced as his court struggles drag on. But Risen told The New York Times on Monday that he plans on continuing to fight to protect his sources.
In Risen's case, the laws actually haven't tightened under Obama's watch. While his aggressive prosecuting of information leakers may have sent Risen to court, Obama is operating under the same framework that has been in place for years: The courts have never recognized that journalists deserve special protection from testifying.
In fact, Risen's current predicament has been a cyclical problem between journalists and the courts dating back to the earliest newspapers. But each time it renews a conversation on if the law should afford journalists special protection (I bet I know what Risen would think). Let's take a look back at some of these cases.
Nugent became the OG of reporter's privilege cases when he refused to reveal who gave him a secret draft of the Treaty of Mexico. He was put in the custody of the Senate's sergeant-at-arms, filed stories from his room, and had his salary doubled while in confinement. Talk about a badass.
This Supreme Court decision blocked journalists from using First Amendment as a defense for not appearing before a grand jury. It was narrowly defeated in a 5-4 vote, and man would it have cleared a lot of these other cases up. It is the only time the Supreme Court has had a case relating to reporter's privilege.
Miller took 85 days in jail rather than reveal sources surrounding Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA operative who was outed by syndicated columnist Robert Novak. Miller didn't even write about Plame, but still got roped into the whole affair and took heat for it.