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MUST READ: New York Times reporter subpoenaed in CIA case

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena for a New York Times reporter demanding his testimony in the prosecution of a former CIA operations officer charged with illegally leaking classified information.

In a court filing late Monday, prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia said the reporter, James Risen, can provide crucial testimony implicating the defendant, ex-CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling, of O'Fallon, Mo.

But Risen has steadfastly refused to cooperate in the Sterling prosecution. A judge previously quashed a subpoena issued to Risen at an earlier stage in the case. And Risen's lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, said Risen will again seek to quash the subpoena. He declined further comment.

Prosecutors said Risen's testimony would be relevant to a jury, and that reporters enjoy no special privilege under federal law to avoid testifying.

''Mr. Risen is an eyewitness to those crimes. Mr. Risen's testimony, like that of any other citizen in his situation, should therefore be admitted to permit the jury to carry out its truth-seeking function,'' prosecutors from the Department of Justice's Criminal Division and the Eastern District of Virginia wrote in a court filing seeking to compel Risen's testimony at trial.

Prosecutors alleged Sterling was a source for Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, in his 2006 book ''State of War'' about CIA operations in Iran.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride in the Eastern District of Virginia referred calls to the Justice Department, where DOJ procedures require the attorney general himself to sign off on subpoenaing a journalist.

Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said in a statement that the department makes ''every reasonable effort to attempt to obtain information from alternative sources before even considering a subpoena to a member of the press, and only seeks information essential to directly establishing innocence or guilt.''