US v. Sterling – Testimonial Privilege

by Travis Normand

United States v. Jeffrey Sterling, . . . (4th Cir. 2013).

In its prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA employee accused of divulging classified information about the agency’s efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, the government subpoenaed James Risen.  Risen, a reporter for the New York Times, published stories that were apparently based on information fed to him by Mr. Sterling.  Risen essentially argued that he could refuse to testify and that he was protected by some form of reporter’s privilege.  However, in a 2-to-1 opinion released July 19, 2013, the  U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that Risen could not refuse to testify and that there is no First Amendment or federal common-law privilege protection available to him as a reporter.

The dissent listed many state law testimonial privileges that apply to reporters.

See the entire opinion HERE.

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