By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 2, 2008
A federal grand jury in Alexandria has issued a subpoena seeking information about the confidential sources of a newspaper journalist who wrote in a 2006 book about alleged CIA efforts to infiltrate Iran's nuclear program.
The Jan. 24 subpoena ordered the reporter, James Risen of the New York Times, to appear before the grand jury next Thursday, said David N. Kelley, Risen's attorney. Kelley, a former U.S. attorney in New York, said Risen plans to resist the order.
Kelley said Risen is "going to stand by his commitment of confidentiality to his sources." He said the subpoena, reported by the New York Times yesterday, focuses on a chapter in Risen's book "State of War," about Operation Merlin, depicted as an unsuccessful CIA effort to destabilize the Iranian nuclear program. The allegations were not reported in the Times.
The demand is the latest of several Bush administration efforts to compel journalists to reveal information about their confidential sources, and it comes as the Senate is debating whether to pass legislation that would shield journalists from many such demands.
Judith Miller, a former Times reporter, was jailed for 85 days in 2005 for refusing to name a confidential source during an investigation into the leak of a CIA officer's identity. Miller testified after the source, former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, waived confidentiality. Other journalists were also targeted and threatened with jail in the CIA leak case and others.
Lucy A. Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the Risen subpoena was bad news for journalists but could inspire the Senate to pass a shield measure. The House approved legislation last year that would protect news reporters, under most circumstances, from being legally compelled to reveal sources who requested confidentiality.
"It absolutely shows the need for this legislation," Dalglish said.
Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said the newspaper supports Risen and "deplores what seems to be a growing trend of government leak investigations focusing on journalists, particularly in the national security area."