In what supporters are calling a "big victory for defying illegitimate authority," the Department of Justice will reportedly not force New York Times journalist James Risen to testify against a source in court, an unnamed official told news outlets on Friday.
According to a senior Justice Department official, Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered that if the Pulitzer prize-winning investigative reporter is called to testify, that he must not be required to reveal "information about the identity of his source."
Risen has previously vowed that he would go to jail rather than reveal the person who provided information for his 2006 book State of War, in which he wrote about a botched Clinton-era CIA mission to sabotage Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
The unnamed official reportedly told NBC that the government may still subpoena Risen to testify in order to "confirm that he had an agreement with a confidential source, and that he did write the book."
Though "no final decision has been made about exactly how to proceed," the official reportedly said that the DOJ "will no longer seek what [Risen]'s most concerned about revealing."
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Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org, which coordinated the petition campaign "We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press," credited the victory to both Risen's pledge of resistance and the fierce campaign that rallied in his support.
"This is a big victory for defying illegitimate authority," Solomon said. "The Bush and Obama administrations have tried to coerce and intimidate James Risen with a series of subpoenas beginning in early 2008. Nearly seven years later, a crucial lesson from his refusal to back down is that journalists—and the rest of us—must not give an inch to government officials who are trying to undermine the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments."
He added: "Freedom of the press, confidential communications and due process remain under fierce attack. The only solution is to fight back."
The government trial against former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling, who is accused of leaking information about the failed CIA operation, is set to begin next month. On Thursday, a federal judge ordered for the DOJ to decide within one week whether or not it will subpoena Risen.