The link at this front page headline takes you to the HuffPo NYTimes page[?] where the headline is more specific: " 'Reporter's Privilege' Under Fire From Obama Administration Amid Broader War on Leaks."
RICHMOND, Va. -- The Obama administration Friday morning continued its headlong attack on the right of reporters to protect their confidential sources in leak investigations.
Before a panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, a Department of Justice lawyer argued that New York Times reporter James Risen should be forced to testify in the trial of former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with leaking classified information to Risen about a botched plot against the Iranian government.
Rather than arguing the specifics of the case, DOJ appellate lawyer Robert A. Parker asserted that there is no reporter's privilege when a journalist receives an illegal leak of national security secrets.
When Judge Robert Gregory asked Parker to explain why the public's interest in a free press was outweighed by the specific circumstances in this case, Parker declined.
"I don’t think there would be a balancing test because there's no privilege in the first place," Parker said. "The salient point is that Risen is the only eyewitness to this crime."
Gregory told Parker that the Supreme Court's Branzburg v. Hayes decision -- which Parker cited as precedent for forcing journalists to testify when they had witnessed a crime -- involved the witnessing of a different crime, "not the disclosure itself."
Parker said what Risen did was "analogous" to a journalist receiving drugs from a confidential source, and then refusing to testify about it.
"You think so?" Gregory asked, clearly unconvinced.
"The beneficiary of the privilege is the public … the people's right to know," Gregory said. "We need to know what the government is doing," he noted. "The king never wants anyone to disclose."
Another judge, Albert Diaz, bristled when Parker described the Branzburg precedent as clear. "Clear as mud," Diaz said....
It seems like this should be getting a lot more press than it is. A "botched plan against the Iranian government"? A New York Times reporter and covert CIA operatives? Sheesh, isn't that bigger news than the Facebook IPO?
Associated Press at ABC, earlier today:
A federal appeals panel will hear the case of an ex-CIA officer charged with leaking classified information about Iran's nuclear program to a New York Times reporter.
Federal prosecutors will ask the panel Friday to reverse a pretrial ruling limiting the scope of reporter James Risen's testimony in the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling. They argue that the First Amendment doesn't shield journalists from disclosing their sources during criminal prosecutions brought in good faith.The judge ruled that Risen must testify at Sterling's trial, but narrowed his testimony to four issues.
Prosecutors say Sterling was a key source in Risen's 2006 book, "State of War." They're also challenging the court's decision to strike two government witnesses and allow disclosure of the identities of covert CIA operatives to Sterling's lawyers.
The original case goes back to wiretaps and email interceptions during the Bush years, but it wasn't until December 2010 that the government filed an indictment against Sterling under the Espionage Act.