Hero Award: New York "Times" reporter James Risen
We now have an edition of one of our occasional features. It's called the Hero Award and it's given as the occasion arises to people who just do the right thing on a matter big or small.
Back in June, I had as an Outrage of the Week the attack on press freedom represented by the Supreme Court's ruling that federal prosecutors can force New York Times reporter James Risen to testify about his source for a story.
Those prosecutors have charged Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA case officer, with leaking classified information related to a botched attempt by the spooks to disrupte Iran's nuclear industry. Risen had written about the program, prosecutors became convinced that Sterling was Risen's source, and are demanding that he break his promise of confidentiality to his source and confirm - on the stand, under oath - that Sterling was the one who leaked the information to him.
Risen faces a contempt of court citation and a prison sentence of quite literally indeterminate length if he refuses.
On Monday, January 5, Risen appeared at a pretrial hearing in federal court and did just that: He refused. Finally, the federal prosecutor asked him if his position was that, quoting, "regardless of any threat of sanctions, you would not testify as to the identity of the source or sources" who provided the information the government is accusing Sterling of leaking.
Risen answered "Yes." And in that one word he reaffirmed what he has said all along: He will go to prison rather than reveal a source. And in that one word, too, he earned his position as a Hero.
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