WASHINGTON, August 14 (RIA Novosti) - A group of journalists, lawyers, and advocates of free speech strongly condemned the actions of the Obama administration and the Department of Justice for the subpoena of James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist targeted under the espionage act for protecting his national security sources’ identities.
“The Justice Department and the Obama administration were the ones who turned this into a really fundamental fight over press freedom in their appeal to the Fourth Circuit [Court],” said James Risen, who may face prison or heavy fines for failing to reveal a CIA source to the Obama administration cited in his 2006 book, State of War.
“‘There is no such thing as reporter’s privilege.’ You read the government’s brief in the Fourth Circuit appeal, that’s what they say,” Risen continued. “So they turned this case into a showdown over the first amendment and the freedom of the press of the United States.”
The Obama administration has been notorious among journalists who value press freedom for its unprecedented prosecution of whistleblowers. Since Obama came into office in 2008, there have been eight prosecutions of whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act, a larger number than all previous administrations combined.
According to Courtney Radsch of the Committee to Protect Journalists, if Risen is put in jail for refusing to disclose his sources, it will erode the US moral authority worldwide.
“It is much harder for the US to be taken seriously when it advocates for press freedom and journalistic rights abroad when they are abridged at home,” Radsch said.
She also warned that if Risen is imprisoned, the United States will join Cuba as the only countries in the Western Hemisphere with journalists imprisoned on anti-state charges. Radsch noted that anti-state charges are “a favorite of repressive regimes who see little value in a free press.”
Advocates of Risen’s ability to protect the identity of his sources presented a petition to the Justice Department on Thursday morning. The petition had more than 100,000 signatures and seeks to protect Risen from being forced to testify and in doing so, reveal confidential sources. The New York Times recently called the Risen case, “the most serious confrontation between the government and the press in recent history.”