U.S. Government's Prosecution of Investigative Reporter James Risen Threatens Freedom of the Press

Posted Oct. 15, 2014

MP3 Interview with Norman Solomon, author and activist, conducted by Scott Harris


For more than six years, New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and author James Risen has been the target of federal prosecutors for his refusal to disclose his sources. The Department of Justice has ordered Risen to testify against one of his alleged sources, former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who it is believed provided the journalist with confidential information regarding a failed CIA operation to sabotage Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which was published in Risen's 2006 book, “State of War.” Thus far, Risen has refused to cooperate with prosecutors and identify his source, stating that he would rather go to jail than give up everything he believes in.

An article published on the front page of the Nation magazine on Oct. 8 titled, “The Government War Against Reporter James Risen,” examines the Obama administration’s pattern of retaliating against independent journalists and whistle-blowers, which the authors say undermines freedom of the press, an essential foundation for a healthy democracy. The article written by RootsAction.org co-founder Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler asserts that the prosecution of Risen and Sterling is designed to conceal controversial and embarrassing aspects of U.S. foreign policy from the American people – and intimidate future government whistle-blowers and journalists who would tell their stories.

During six years of the Obama administration, whistle-blower investigations opened under the 1917 Espionage Act is more than double the number of those conducted in all previous presidential administrations combined. In recent months, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the federal government stop its prosecution of James Risen. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Norman Soloman, a former California congressional candidate, author and activist, who talks about why he believes the prosecution of James Risen constitutes a threat to all journalists and press freedom.

Norman Solomon is also the author of “War Made Easy, How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning us to Death.” Read more of Norman Solomon’s columns at normonsolomon.com.

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