The Obama Department of Justice continued its attack on news reporters trying to protect their confidential sources with regard to stories based on government leaks. Before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is a case concerning NYT reporter James Risen, who has refused to respond to a federal subpoena demanding that he provide the source of information on which he based a story about a botched CIA plot against the Iranian government. Oral arguments occurred this morning. Fortunately, several of the judges were not receptive to the arguments of the Obama Administration that there is no such thing as a “reporters’ privilege.”
Why is this issue critically important? James Risen explains in this Huffpo article by Michael Caldeone and Dan Froomkin:
“They’ve said in that there is no reporter’s privilege,” Risen said. “I think they want the court to rule on a fundamental constitutional issue of whether or not there is a reporter’s privilege in a criminal case, which makes this case kind of have a broader import than it might otherwise have.”
“That’s why I think it’s become a pretty important case,” he continued. “It’s a fairly basic constitutional issue for the press, whether or not there is a reporter’s privilege. It’s something a lot of people outside the press don’t really understand, don’t really care about. I think the basic issue is whether you can have a democracy without aggressive investigative reporting and I don’t believe you can. So that’s why I’m fighting it.”
The hardline stand against reporter’s privilege — the DOJ briefs always put the term in quotation marks — is a hallmark of the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown over leaks. So is trying to throw the book at the alleged leakers.