New York Times Reporter Refuses to Reveal Sources in Federal Court

By Reuben Schafir

Catlin Speak (Portland, Oregon)

In a case which potentially challenges the right to free press, James Risen, a New York Times reporter, was forced by subpoena to take that stand in federal court Monday, but still refused to name his confidential sources.

Risen was served a subpoena, authorized by Attorney General Eric Holder, to testify at the trial of Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former CIA officer. Risen was supposed to disclose his confidential source for his book, “State of War.”

After being served, Risen fought the subpoena and appealed, eventually landing in the supreme court, which upheld the subpoena. Risen testified at a hearing monday, however refused to name sources still.

The New York Times quoted James Trump, a prosecutor asking Risen “It is your position that, regardless of any threat of sanctions, you would not testify as to the identity of the source or sources who provided information for Chapter 9?” to which Risen responded “Yes.”

Due to the fifth amendments exclusive protection of the right to remain silent, so one doesn’t incriminate oneself, and there is no federal journalist shield law, Risen could have been held in contempt of court. However, Attorney General Holder vowed not to imprison journalists who refuse to reveal sources in trials similar to that of Sterling.

However, in a similar case, journalist Joshua Wolf was imprisoned for a record 225 days in 2006 after refusing to release a video shot at an anti-G8 demonstration depicting demonstrators vandalized property.

Wolf’s release was order by a federal judge after he published the video on his blog.

James Risen may or may not be called as a witness in the Sterling trial, but has not been jailed or forced to reveal his sources.


About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

Leave a Reply