On Friday, July 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the First Amendment does not protect New York Times reporter James Risen from revealing the source(s) who provided him with information for a chapter in his 2006 book State of War. The 2-1 decision overturned a lower court ruling that shielded Risen from an obligation to give evidence against a source.
Together with The New York Times and the Washington Post, GAP deplores the ruling. When journalists are stripped of their First Amendment rights, they lose the ability to protect the identity of their sources. A free and independent press is the inevitable casualty of this decision, as only officially-approved accounts of government and corporate actions will see the light of day.
The ruling represents another phase in the continuing war on whistleblowers. In a public statement, Risen responded to the decision:
"Although I am disappointed in the court's decision, I remain as resolved as ever to continue fighting. I will always protect my sources."
Risen will be a moderator at GAP's event Thursday, July 25 at the National Press Club: "Whistleblowers, Journalists, and the New War Within." Columnist David Sirota will also be moderating, with panelists including: Radack, Drake, Binney, Weibe, Julian Sanchez (Cato Institute), Amie Stepanovich (EPIC), and Babak Pasdar (Telecom whistleblower). It will focus on the embattled partnership between whistleblowers and journalists in an age of pervasive surveillance.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.