Writer Is Served With Subpoena in C.I.A. Leak CaseEric H. Holder Jr., are trying to force the author of a book on the C.I.A. to testify at a criminal trial about who leaked information to him about an effort by the agency to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program at the end of the Clinton administration.
The writer, James Risen, a reporter at The New York Times, was served with a subpoena late on Monday, ordering him to testify at the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer. Mr. Sterling was charged this year as part of a wider crackdown by the Obama administration on officials accused of disclosing restricted information to journalists.
The subpoena tells Mr. Risen that “you are commanded” to appear at a federal district court in Alexandria, Va., on Sept. 12 to testify in the case. A federal district court judge, Leonie M. Brinkema, quashed a similar subpoena to Mr. Risen late last year, when prosecutors were trying to convince a grand jury to indict Mr. Sterling.
Mr. Risen said he would ask the judge to quash the new subpoena, too.
“I am going to fight this subpoena,” Mr. Risen said. “I will always protect my sources, and I think this is a fight about the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.”
In a 30-page motion that prosecutors filed on Monday, they argued that the First Amendment did not give Mr. Risen the right to avoid testifying about his confidential sources in a criminal proceeding. The Justice Department argued that Mr. Risen was a witness and should be compelled to provide information to a jury “like any other citizen,” contending that there was no basis to conclude “that the reporter is being harassed in order to disrupt his relationship with confidential news sources.”
The motion also said that prosecutors anticipated a motion by Mr. Risen to quash the subpoena. If the court does not agree to do so and Mr. Risen still refuses to testify, he would risk being held in contempt. In 2005, a Times reporter, Judith Miller, was jailed for 85 days for refusing to testify in connection with the Valerie Plame Wilson leak case.
Prosecutors believe that Mr. Sterling provided classified information to Mr. Risen that served as the basis for a chapter in the writer’s 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration.”
The chapter details an effort by the C.I.A. in 2000 to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program by sending a former Russian scientist to give it blueprints for a nuclear triggering device with a hidden design flaw. Mr. Risen portrayed the operation as botched, saying that the agency may have helped Iranian scientists gain valuable and accurate information.
The material in that chapter did not appear in The New York Times. Mr. Sterling’s indictment said that Mr. Risen had worked on an article about the program in 2003, but the newspaper decided not to publish it after government officials told editors that such a disclosure would jeopardize national security..
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