WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge in Virginia has given the Justice Department until next week to say whether it will seek the testimony of a New York Times reporter in the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema ordered prosecutors to announce at a Dec. 16 hearing whether they plan to call journalist James Risen as a witness.
In her one-page order, Brinkema also asked prosecutors to reveal "any conditions or limitations" they have worked out with Risen's attorneys. She said the Justice Department has had more than six months to decide whether it would subpoena Risen to testify at the trial, which is scheduled to start Jan. 12.
"Because Mr. Risen's presence or absence at the trial will have a significant impact on how the parties present their case, a decision about Mr. Risen must be made sufficiently before trial to enable the parties to prepare adequately," she wrote in the order dated Tuesday.
Prosecutors allege that Jeffrey Sterling disclosed to Risen classified information about operations in Iran. They have said Risen's testimony is integral to their case. In a motion filed last month, they said they had no deal in place with Risen and that his lawyers had said that, even if subpoenaed, he would refuse to provide any substantive testimony at the trial.
The trial has long been delayed while lawyers have debated whether Risen enjoys any kind of immunity from being compelled to testify about his interactions with anonymous sources. In June, the Supreme Court let stand a ruling from a federal appellate court that Risen could be subpoenaed.
Attorney General Eric Holder, though, has indicated he does not plan to jail reporters for contempt of court if they refuse to testify. In October, Holder reiterated that stance and said he expected Risen's situation to be resolved in a way that would satisfy all involved.