10/24/2014 09:05 pm ET Updated Dec 24, 2014

The Difference Between Fact and Fiction

Turn on CNN any Sunday morning and its principal programs most likely will intrigue you, particularly if you are watching Fareed Zakaria, Brian Stelter and their casts of articulate and intelligent characters who "analyze" or have an opinion about "the news." They are consistent, informative and almost always persuasive.

I am usually reluctant to use these words in analyzing fact-based "news," especially when the U.S. government and the air heads in Congress threaten to subpoena journalists in order to obtain the names of their sources. Remarkably, this conflict has been raging as far back as 1969 when I was a CBS News correspondent and requested reassignment to transfer back from Vietnam to the United States. I was sent to Chicago, where I joined several colleagues to cover the Conspiracy Trial of anti-war demonstrators.

Reacting to the threat of then U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell, I vowed that I would go to jail rather than reveal my sources. Over a Sunday breakfast at my home, the late J. Anthony Lukas of the New York Times agreed with me, and we fanned out across the country to contact approximately 30 fellow journalists. Thanks to the willingness of Samuel Dash, University of Maryland professor, who made a campus meeting site available to us, and the enthusiastic presence of the late Ben Bradlee, the distinguished editor of the Washington Post, we agreed to form The Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press. That was more than 40 years ago. It has gone as far as the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal threats that jeopardize the independence of journalists everywhere.

That's why James Risen's recent book, "The War on Terror," is essential reading.
The New York Times reporter is facing a court order to reveal his sources and why serious journalists everywhere are standing up to the villains who would imprison Risen if they could. Fortunately, they will fail.