Federal Prosecutors Try To Force New York Times Reporter To Reveal Sources

James Risen will go to jail rather than name names, say sources.

ByABC News
May 25, 2011, 10:40 AM

May 25, 2011 — -- The government has issued a subpoena to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen in an effort to force the New York Times reporter to disclose the source of information about CIA efforts to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.

The subpoena orders Risen to testify at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who has been indicted on 10 counts, including allegedly disclosing the information about Iran's nuclear program to Risen. Sterling is among five different federal employees who've been prosecuted by the Obama administration in a crackdown on leakers – more prosecutions than under all previous presidents combined.

Risen has fought two previous attempts to compel him to testify against Sterling; the first subpoena was issued during the Bush administration. Risen told ABC News he plans to ask the court to quash the latest subpoena. "This is a fight to defend the First Amendment and freedom of the press," he said, before referring ABC News to his attorney. Sources close to Risen say he is determined never to give up his sources even if that means going to jail.

Sterling, an ex-CIA operative, was indicted in December 2010 for allegedly giving Risen information about the CIA's attempt to use a Russian scientist to feed Iran faulty blueprints for a nuclear trigger device. The information about the operation, which Risen characterized as unsuccessful, ultimately appeared in his 2006 book "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration." It never appeared in the New York Times.

Sterling was arrested in St. Louis in January. An attorney for Sterling told ABC News that his client was innocent of the charges against him and would prove so in court.

The Obama administration has made its determination to crack down on leaks explicit. Last August, just after becoming Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper sent a memo to 16 different intelligence agencies about the need to stop leaks. The memo was almost immediately leaked. In November, CIA director Leon Panetta sent a message to the CIA that said leaks could "jeopardize lives" and "cannot be tolerated."

"When information about our intelligence, our people, or our operations appears in the media," said Panetta's message, "it does incredible damage to our nation's security and our ability to do our job of protecting the nation."

The four other accused leakers prosecuted by the Obama administration include:

Thomas Drake: Exposed NSA Waste, Legal Concerns on Surveillance

In April 2010, Thomas Drake was served with a 10 count indictment, alleging he was a source behind a series of award-winning stories by the Baltimore Sun about the National Security Agency. In an interview with New York Magazine, Drake said that in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, he became concerned the NSA was overstepping its legal bounds with a new system devoted to electronic surveillance and wiretapping.

The system, Drake said, collected almost all information traveling through phone lines and cyberspace but offered no protection for innocent Americans' privacy.

First, Drake said he went to a Congressional oversight committee with his concerns and then, in 2006, to Siobhan Gorman who covered the NSA for the Sun. Drake said he never passed along any classified material to Gorman, but the indictment filed against him claims he copied classified information from NSA documents and gave it to Gorman.

After the government raided Drake's home in 2007, they discovered five classified documents, the indictment says. If convicted on all counts -- including obstruction of justice and the "willful retention of classified documents" -- Drake could face up to 35 years in prison.

Shamai Liebowitz

In May 2010, Liebowitz, a Hebrew linguist, was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison for leaking secret documents to an unnamed blogger in April 2009.

Liebowitz leaked the documents while working as a contractor for the FBI. He worked for the FBI from January to August 2009, having earlier worked as a contractor for the State Department and then the Defense Department's Defense Language Institute

Liebowitz pled guilty in December 2009 to a single count of disclosing classified information.

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