Ten months after the Committee to Protect Journalists issued its scathing report “The Obama Administration and the Press,” journalists and potential whistleblowers continue to face unprecedented surveillance and legal jeopardy.
The report, authored by Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post, remains grimly up to date as it describes “the fearful atmosphere surrounding contacts between American journalists and government sources.”
The US Department of Justice seems determined to intensify that fearful atmosphere–in part by threatening to jail New York Times reporter James Risen, who refuses to name any source for the disclosure in his 2006 book State of War that the CIA bungled a dumb and dangerous operation with nuclear weapons blueprints in Iran. The government is now prosecuting a former CIA employee, Jeffrey Sterling, for allegedly leaking that information to Risen. Attorney General Eric Holder may soon decide whether he wants to imprison Risen for not capitulating.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation calls it “one of the most significant press freedom cases in decades.” Almost a year ago, under the letterhead of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 46 news organizations sent a letter to Holder urging the Justice Department to withdraw the subpoena issued to Risen. Two months ago, the Committee to Protect Journalists put out a new statement again calling on the Justice Department to cancel the subpoena.
This summer, both RCFP and CPJ have gotten behind a petition, “We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press,” set for delivery to the Justice Department in mid-August with nearly 100,000 signers.