JAMES RISEN 101


James Risen
 

WHO is James Risen?
 
James Risen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist who works for the New York Times. He has spent years writing about the American government and is the author of two well-respected books about the Central Intelligence Agency, notably including State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. 
 
WHAT is happening to him?
 
In early 2005, Mr. Risen was the first journalist to break the story of the NSA’s massive, top-secret warrantless wiretap program in the article “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts.”
 
Since that time, he has been unfairly targeted by national security agencies. His travel, credit card, and phone records have been seized by the Justice Department under the Espionage Act. The Espionage Act, passed in 1917, is the same piece of legislation being used to charge Edward Snowden, currently living in exile in Moscow. Read more about the controversial act here.
 
More worrisome, he was subpoenaed in 2008 and asked to divulge confidential sources that he relied on while writing State of War. Risen has refused to cooperate. If he continues to refuse to break his reporter-source anonymity, he may be held in contempt of court and possibly be subject to jail time.
 
WHERE can I learn more?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
WHEN will we know more about Risen’s case?
Risen is now waiting on the Justice Department’s final decision regarding issuing a subpoena. The case in which Risen may be asked to testify is set to begin on January 14, 2015. PEN Center USA will be keeping a close eye on developments in this matter and will keep our members informed of any new developments. Further action may become necessary when we find out whether or not the Justice Department will continue down this dangerous path.
 
WHY is PEN Center USA concerned?
 
PEN Center USA is concerned that American journalists may become victims of President Obama’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers. This administration has been particularly ferocious in its legal pursuit of leakers. CNN’s Jake Tapper has pointed out that Obama has used the Espionage Act against government workers more than all previous administrations combined.
 
PEN Center USA is adamant in its defense of American journalists’ rights to protect the anonymity of their sources, especially considering the crucial importance of these sources for the practice of national security reporting. The prospect of Risen serving time in jail as a consequence of his reporting is horrifying in its free speech implications. PEN Center USA is profoundly worried that permanently undermining the ability to keep sources confidential would result in a “chilling effect” that would stifle American journalists in all fields. The Justice Department must drop this assault on one of the most fundamental tools of investigative reporting.
 
WHAT can I do?
 
PEN Center USA urges you to share this update via e-mail and/or social media, and to pay attention to developments in the Risen case. We also encourage you to instigate offline discussions with your community about this issue.
 
SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Use #PENTakeAction and #JamesRisen where possible.
 

Right now, it is important to draw as much public attention to this case as possible and let the Justice Department know that the writing community is watching its actions. We would also encourage you to contact the Justice Department and encourage it to cease its attempts to force Mr. Risen to testify against his will. Contact information is available here. 
 
 
 Related: Check out The Top Ten Books About Whistleblowers on the Mark Blog.

 

 

 

 

 

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