RootsAction.org co-founder Norman Solomon praised the US Department of Justice’s apparent decision to drop its threat to imprison author and journalist James Risen unless he reveals his source in reporting the story of Operation Merlin.
RootsAction.org coordinated the petition campaign “We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press.” Addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, the petition — which gained more than 100,000 signers this year — told Holder and Obama: “We urge you in the strongest terms to halt all legal action against Mr. Risen and to safeguard the freedom of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources.”
Solomon said tonight: “This seems to be a big victory for defying illegitimate authority. The Bush and Obama administrations have tried to coerce and intimidate James Risen with a series of subpoenas beginning in early 2008. Nearly seven years later, a crucial lesson from his refusal to back down is that journalists — and the rest of us — must not give an inch to government officials who are trying to undermine the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.”
He added: “Freedom of the press, confidential communications and due process remain under fierce attack. The only solution is to fight back. … Now the Justice Department needs to drop the charges against Jeffrey Sterling.”
Operation Merlin, as reported by Risen, was an operation in which the CIA gave flawed blueprints for nuclear weapons to Iran. Sterling, a former CIA officer, is accused of being a whistleblower who exposed that reckless act. “Such whistleblowing is not a crime,” said Solomon, “but a public service.”
Organizations supporting the petition included: RootsAction.org, the Center for Media and Democracy, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Nation, the Progressive, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Free Press, Government Accountability Project, PEN America, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders, and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg drafted an email to promote the petition. RootsAction also garnered statements of support from 20 Pulitzer Prize winners.
The petition is here: