James Risen just added to the inventory of quotes from high-profile journalists that the Obama administration is a danger to a free press. “I think [President] Obama hates the press. I think he doesn’t like the press and he hates leaks,” Risen said in an address at Colby College in Maine. “I don’t think any of this would be happening under the Obama administration if Obama didn’t want to do it.”
“This” was an apparent reference to the various strong-armed tactics of the Obama administration toward journalists, starting with the case of Risen himself. He has been fighting a subpoena to testify about the source for information he published about CIA efforts to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program in his 2006 book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.” A chapter in the book details a bumbling plan by the CIA to fluster Iran’s scientists, and in 2010 the government indicted Jeffrey Sterling for passing along information to Risen for the book.
Risen’s long fight against the subpoena to testify about his source has been covered extensively. Though departing Attorney General Eric Holder has said that Risen won’t be jailed in connection with his refusal to testify, Risen apparently hasn’t ruled out such a scenario: “I would go to jail to protect the confidentiality of sources,” he said at Colby College.
The Justice Department’s push for Risen’s testimony comes on top of other hot-button press-freedom issues of the Obama years, most notably the seizure of phone records of the Associated Press and the naming of Fox News’s James Rosen as a “co-conspirator” in an illegal leak of sensitive information. Risen’s former boss, dismissed New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, called the current White House the most secretive that she had ever encountered.
On the other hand, Obama has sat for more than 700 interviews since taking office, a tally that blows away those of his immediate predecessors.