Success: Journalist Will Not Be Pressured to Reveal His Source


Target: United States Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.

Goal: Applaud decision not to force journalist James Risen to reveal the source that informed his book about a botched mission by the Central Intelligence Agency

Whistleblowers working inside government agencies have tremendous power to expose injustice, corruption and incompetence. They come forward at great personal risk. Such information is often protected as “state secrets,” meaning anyone who reveals it could be subject to jail time in addition to loss of employment. The War on Terror has seen no shortage of bungling and misplaced priorities, and journalists working with anonymous sources have done a great deal to bring such details to light.

In 2006 New York Times journalist James Risen released State of War, a scathing book that included information about a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) mission gone wrong. Furious about this revelation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) subpoenaed Risen in an attempt to force him to reveal his source. Risen vowed to go to prison rather than break confidentiality, and so began an intense battle of wills. To his credit, Risen never gave in.

An earlier ForceChange petition urged the Attorney General to drop the subpoena. Because of public pressure on officials to protect against censorship, the DOJ eventually withdrew its demand that Risen reveal his source in court. Applaud government officials for defending this crucial freedom of the press.


Dear Attorney General Holder,

Beginning in 2008 the DOJ sent multiple subpoenas to journalist James Risen in an attempt to get him to reveal the confidential source used to inform his book, State of War. You have recently come out to say that the DOJ will no longer push Risen to reveal his source in court. I am writing to praise this decision to uphold the constitutional freedoms of journalists.

Executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy Norman Solomon has called Risen’s case “a big victory for defying illegitimate authority.” He went on to say that “a crucial lesson from his refusal to back down is that journalists—and the rest of us—must not give an inch to government officials who are trying to undermine the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.” Defying illegitimate authority is, in fact, patriotic.

As the government prepared its case against accused whistleblower and former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling, it remained to be seen how Risen would be called to participate. I applaud your ultimate decision not to demand that Risen reveal the identity of his source. Neither should he be required to testify against this person. Please, ensure that this prolonged attack on the freedom of the press ends immediately and is not repeated.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: VaGla via Wikimedia Commons

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