RICHMOND, Va. — At least two members of a three-judge federal appeals court panel appeared to express some skepticism on Friday about prosecutors’ request that they overturn a district judge’s order protecting a journalist from being forced to identify his confidential sources in the trial of a former Central Intelligence Agency officer.
Nearly an hour of oral arguments here before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concluded with no definitive answer as to how the court will rule about whether the journalist, James Risen, can be forced to testify in a high-profile leak case that has raised a significant test of the First Amendment.
One judge, Roger Gregory, sharply criticized prosecutors’ contention that the Constitution offers no special protection to a reporter who is a witness to a particular type of crime: the unauthorized disclosure of government secrets to that very reporter by an official.
“The king always wants to suppress what they are doing — that is what is troubling,” said Judge Gregory, who stressed what he portrayed as the “public interest” in knowing about government misconduct that led the framers of the Constitution to write the First Amendment. source