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New York Times reporter subpoenaed over book on CIA

April 29, 2010

The US government is seeking to compel an author to testify about his confidential sources for a 2006 book he wrote about the Central Intelligence Agency, The New York Times reported Thursday.

James Risen, the author of "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration" and a reporter for the Times, received a subpoena on Monday, the newspaper said.

The Times said the "rare step" of issuing a subpoena to a writer was authorized by Attorney General Eric Holder.

The subpoena calls for Risen to provide documents and to testify on May 4 before a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, about his sources for a chapter of his book, the Times said.

It said the chapter largely focuses on problems with a covert CIA effort to disrupt alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research. The Times said the material did not appear in the newspaper.

The Times quoted Risen's lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, as saying Risen would not comply with the demand and would ask a judge to quash the subpoena.

"He intends to honor his commitment of confidentiality to his source or sources," Kurtzberg was quoted as saying. "We intend to fight this subpoena."

In a separate case two weeks ago, a former senior National Security Agency official was charged over the leaking of classified information about the super secret intelligence agency to a reporter for The Baltimore Sun newspaper.

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

The Times said it was not the first time Risen had been issued a subpoena in the case. It said the Bush administration had obtained a subpoena against him in January 2008 but it eventually expired without him having to testify.

The Times noted that Risen risks being held in contempt of court if the subpoena is not quashed and he refuses to testify.

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