New York Times contributor James Risen’s burly criticisms against President Obama left no room for waggling – the Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist called Obama the “greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”
Writes the Huffington Post: “Risen has been fighting the Obama administration's efforts to get him to testify about his sources for six years. The Department of Justice has ordered him to testify against former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who it believes leaked information about a failed CIA operation in Iran that Risen reported on in his book. Risen recently lost his bid to have the Supreme Court revisit his case.”
Risen’s comments were carried in an op-ed piece that ran Sunday in the NY Times entitled Where’s the Justice at Justice? In it, fellow Times writer Maureen Dowd spoke to Risen about his rise into journalism and the continued White House campaign against him.
The Justice Department is trying to scuttle the reporters’ privilege — ignoring the chilling effect that is having on truth emerging in a jittery post-9/11 world prone to egregious government excesses.
Attorney General Eric Holder wants to force Risen to testify and reveal the identity of his confidential source on a story he had in his 2006 book concerning a bungled C.I.A. operation during the Clinton administration in which agents might have inadvertently helped Iran develop its nuclear weapon program. The tale made the C.I.A. look silly, which may have been more of a sore point than a threat to national security.
“It’s hypocritical,” Risen said. “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”
Press freedom organizations submitted a petition containing over 100,000 signatures into the hands of the US Department of Justice last week, calling on the government to stop taking legal action against Risen and to capitulate in the face of the journalist’s First Amendment rights. Thus far, the DOJ has not showed signs of backing down.
“The real reason I’m doing this is for the future of journalism,” Risen said last Thursday in Washington at a National Press Club news conference. “There’s just no way to conduct aggressive investigating reporting without a reporter’s privilege of some kind, without confidential sources,” adding that the constant pressure and dark cloud of fines and jail time hanging over his head “obviously had an effect, but I’m trying to keep working.”