Justice Department Subpoenas NYT Reporter

TPM Muckraker reports:

James Risen, a reporter for the New York Times was subpoenaed in the case against Jeffrey Sterling, who is awaiting trial for allegedly leaking classified information that Risen used in his book State of War. Justice Department policy requires that such request be approved by the attorney general, meaning that Eric Holder signed off on the filing.

In the 30-page document filed on behalf of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride, DOJ Criminal Division chief Lanny A. Breuer and former Public Integrity Section Chief William M. Welch II amongst others, the federal government argues that Risen could testify about his previous relationship with Sterling without violating his alleged confidentiality agreement with the former CIA agent.

The NYT‘s own coverage of the subpoena is here.

In a follow up post, TPM further reports on a Justice Department statement explaining the subpoena.

“In issuing subpoenas to members of the media, the Department seeks to strike the proper balance between the public’s interest in the free dissemination of information and effective law enforcement,” Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said in an email.

“The government takes seriously its obligations regarding subpoenas to the media, following all applicable laws, federal regulations and department policies,” Sweeney said. “We make every reasonable effort to attempt to obtain information from alternatives sources before even considering a subpoena to a member of the press, and only seek information essential to directly establishing innocence or guilt.”

As I understand it, longstanding Justice Department policy provides that prosecutors may subpoena journalists if they have exhausted other means of obtaining the desired information, and that a similar approach was used by Patrick Fitzgerald in his investigation of the leak of information regarding Valerie Plame.