WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration may not actually seek an order from a federal judge to send New York Times reporter James Risen to jail for refusing to testify against a confidential source, the No. 2 official at the Justice Department implied during a meeting with reporters on Wednesday.
Risen is refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify at the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information to him. The Supreme Court is considering whether to take up Risen's case.
In a meeting with media industry representatives on Tuesday, Eric Holder said "no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail" as long as Holder is attorney general.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole was asked about the subpoena during a media briefing on a separate topic on Wednesday and suggested Holder's statement wasn't a shift in policy.
When asked why the Justice Department would subpoena journalists in the first place and fight the case through the appeals process if there's no intent to jail them for not complying, Cole said, "Just because you issue a subpoena doesn't mean you're jailing anybody. Sometimes people provide information, so it's the legal process and we go through the legal process."
When asked by another reporter if he considered protecting a source part of a journalist doing his job, Cole tried to steer the discussion back to the topic of the media briefing, which was prison rape standards.
Disclosure: This reporter was once subpoenaed by the Justice Department to testify before a grand jury, but got out of it because he had class.