Attorney General Eric Holder has decided not to demand in court that James Risen, a national security reporter for the New York Times, reveal his source for a book that reported a CIA effort to sabotage Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The government had been threatening to seek jail time to compel Risen to testify about his source. Now, a Justice Department source tells NBC's Pete Williams that If the government subpoenas Risen, “it would be to confirm that he had an agreement with a confidential source, and that he did write the book.” The court case is a federal trial of former CIA official, Jeffrey Sterling, who was accused of leaking classified information.
The decision ends months of internal debate about how aggressive prosecutors should be in seeking Risen’s testimony. The federal judge overseeing the case, Leonie Brinkema of Alexandria, Virginia, gave the government until next Tuesday to declare how much he would be required to reveal in court.
Holder had earlier signaled he might decline to force Risen to reveal a source, telling a group of news media executives earlier this year that “As long as I am attorney general, no reporter who is doing his job is going to jail.”
Without Holder’s decision, Risen would have faced the difficult decision between revealing a source or facing possible jail time for contempt of court.
Risen is a former Los Angeles Times reporter.