US reporter will not have to testify in CIA leak case

NEW YORK - A New York Times journalist will not be asked to testify at a trial over CIA leaks set to begin this week, the newspaper reported Monday.

James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, was subpoenaed in 2008 and again in 2011 ordering him to testify at the trial of former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer Jeffrey Sterling.

Risen has refused to name the source for his account of a bungled CIA operation in Iran that appeared in his 2006 book, "State of War." The case has sparked outcry among media watchdogs, with more than 100,000 supporters signing an online petition delivered to the US Justice Department calling for an end to the prosecution.

The newspaper quoted court documents stating that "the government does not intend to call him as a witness at trial," referring to Risen, who said at a preliminary hearing last week he would not reveal his source, according to the Times.

His lawyers celebrated the decision, and said it was a win for press freedom worldwide.

"We said from the very beginning that under no circumstances would Jim identify confidential sources to the government or anyone else," Risen's lawyer Joel Kurtzberg told the Times.

"The significance of this goes beyond Jim Risen. It affects journalists everywhere. Journalists need to be able to uphold that confidentiality in order to do their jobs." The New York Times also applauded the decision, and defended Risen's reporting.

"I'm glad the government realises that Jim Risen was an aggressive reporter doing his job and that he should not be forced to reveal his source," said a statement from Times executive editor Dean Baquet in the newspaper.

Risen had risked being held in contempt of court if the subpoena was not quashed and he refused to testify.

Risen shared a Pulitzer for a December 2005 article in the Times that exposed the existence of a warrantless surveillance programme conducted by the NSA but the newspaper said the subpoena did not concern that story.