April 30, 2010

Obama administration wants writer to betray sources on Bush spying book


James Risen

James Risen

“The Obama administration is seeking to compel a writer to testify about his confidential sources for a 2006 book about the Central Intelligence Agency, a rare step that was authorized by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.,” according to a report by Charlie Savage in the New York Times, a report that has its share of irony: The writer in question is James Risen, and the book is his State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration, in which he uncovered the fact that the Bush administration had been conducting a warrantless surveillance program on US citizens; Risen, a Times reporter himself, published the book because the Times at first refused to run his reports.

However according to Savage, Risen has been subpoenaed “to provide documents and to testify May 4 before a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., about his sources for a chapter … [that] … largely focuses on problems with a covert C.I.A. effort to disrupt alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research.”

Risen referred questions to his attorney, who would only say, “He intends to honor his commitment of confidentiality to his source or sources. We intend to fight this subpoena.”

Risen won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the case when the Times eventually ran his report.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives