James Risen, an Investigative Journalist, and veteran New York Times Reporter, is now another name on the list of Journalists being prosecuted by the Obama Administration. Risen, whose reporting on warrantless wiretapping was published in 2006, is now facing jail time for the same material that earned him a Pulitzer Prize.
According to Democracy Now, Risen’s original story was supposed to be published in the New York Times prior to the Presidential election in 2004. However, the report was not published until 2006, because Risen was under “government pressure,” due to the fact that his article could have had an effect of the outcome between candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry.
The same accounts included in the report, were also detailed in a book authored by Risen, titled, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.
Now, Risen could face time in prison if he refuses to testify at the trial of ex-CIA analyst Jeffrey Sterling. Prosecutors claim Sterling gave Risen information on the CIA’s role in interfering with Iran’s nuclear program.
In a 2006 article from Risen, which includes excerpts from his book, he addressed the fact that although President Bush had insisted Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, the country received blueprints to build a bomb in 2000, which came directly from the CIA.
According to Democracy Now, because of his revelations, Risen has been “pursued by both the Bush and Obama administrations in a six-year leak investigation,” and he has vowed to “go to jail rather than testify at Sterling’s trial, which is set to begin in January.”
When it comes to prosecuting whistleblowers, the Obama Administration holds the record with eight, which is more than double the three who were prosecuted by previous presidents.
The three journalists who were indicted prior to Obama’s presidency were Daniel Ellsberg in 1973, Samuel Morrison in 1985, and Larry Franklin in 2005.
Since Obama’s time in office, those prosecuted include Thomas Drake and Shamai Leibowitz in 2010, Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, and Donal Sachtleben in 2013, and Stephen Kim in 2014. The cases of Jeffrey Sterling and Edward Snowden are currently pending.
In addition to increasing the number of journalists indicted, Obama has also increased the price each one is forced to pay.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), due to press freedom concerns, “sentencing in media leak cases has historically been relatively light,” with only 24 months of jail time for the three whistleblowers prosecuted from 1973 to 2005.
However, ACLU noted that Obama has “secured 526 months of prison time for national security leakers,” with the majority given to Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years.
Despite the fact that the odds of succeeding as a whistleblower, under the current administration, are not in his favor, James Risen told Democracy Now that he refuses to back down.
Risen said that “staying aggressive and continuing to investigate what the government is doing,” is the only thing the government respects, and is ultimately the only way to maintain press freedom.
“I want to keep finding out the truth,” said Risen. “It’s the thing I’ve tried to do my whole life, is be a reporter and be a writer. It’s the only thing I know how to do.”