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Media Outlets Support James Risen Reporter's Privilege Claim

By Robyn Hagan Cain on February 23, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

New York Times reporter James Risen is getting support from fellow journalists in his reporter's privilege claim to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This week, First Amendment lawyers Lee Levine and Jeanette Bead filed an amicus brief supporting Risen, reports Politico.

Risen was subpoenaed last year to testify about sources for his 2006 book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. The government believes that former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling leaked information to Risen, according to The New York Times.

The government is appealing U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema's July 2011 decision that Risen did not have to identify his sources in the trial. In addition to arguing that the government's appeal is premature and that his testimony is not critical in the case against Sterling, Risen is asking the Fourth Circuit to uphold the basic principle of reporter's privilege, reports Politico.

The media is siding with Risen; more than two dozen media outlets signed on to the amicus brief, arguing that if the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals "adopts the Government's unprecedented position- that journalists do not possess a qualified privilege that protects them against the compelled disclosure of confidential sources in criminal trials- their ability to report on matters of substantial public concern will be significantly impaired." (Brief thanks to Secrecy News.)

Signatories on the brief include ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, National Public Radio and NBC, and print media including the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Hearst, McClatchy, Newsweek, The New York Daily News, Reuters, Scripps-Howard, Time, the Tribune Company, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, reports The New York Times, another signatory. (Full disclosure: Reuters is part of Thomson Reuters, which owns FindLaw).

How do you feel about James Risen's reporter's privilege argument? Does this case have Supreme Court potential? And should the courts give deference to any idea that gets Fox News and The New York Times to agree?

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