WASHINGTON -- New York Times reporter James Risen must say at a trial whether former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling, accused of leaking classified information, was a source for his book, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., reversed a lower-court judge's ruling that found Mr. Risen's testimony, sought by federal prosecutors, was blocked by the First Amendment.
"He is the only one who can identify Sterling as the perpetrator of the charged offenses, and he is the only one who can effectively address Sterling's expected efforts to point the finger at others," U.S. Circuit Judge William Traxler wrote in the majority opinion.
Mr. Sterling is charged with leaking information to Mr. Risen in violation of the Espionage Act. The information was made public in a chapter of Mr. Risen's 2006 book, "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," which revealed a covert operation involving an attempt to supply Iranian officials with flawed nuclear weapons plans.
Mr. Sterling's trial was put on hold while the appeals court considered challenges to evidence the jury may hear.
Mr. Sterling is one of at least seven Americans charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 during President Barack Obama's administration, twice as many as in the previous 90 years. All were accused of leaking secrets to journalists in violation of a law that bars disclosure of national defense information to anyone not authorized to receive it.
Mr. Sterling had been a Central Intelligence Agency officer with a top-secret security clearance from 1993 until his firing in January 2002.nation