AMY GOODMAN: Today we spend the hour with the
journalist at the center of one of the most significant press
freedom cases in decades: veteran New York Times investigative
In 2006, Risen won a Pulitzer Prize for
his reporting about warrantless wiretapping by
His story would have come out right before the
2004 presidential election of President Bush over John Kerry. It
might have changed the outcome of that election. But under
government pressure, The New York Times refused to publish the
story for more than a year, until James Risen was publishing a
book that would have had the revelations in it.
He's since been
pursued by both the Bush and Obama administrations in a six-year
leak investigation into that book, State of War: The Secret
History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.
James Risen now faces years in prison if he refuses to testify
at the trial of a former CIA officer accused of giving him
In June, the Supreme Court turned down
his appeal of a court ruling forcing him to testify in the
criminal trial of ex-CIA analyst
Jeffrey Sterling, who
prosecutors believe gave him information on the agency's role in
disrupting Iran's nuclear program.
In State of War, Risen showed
that instead of hampering Iran's efforts, the CIA effectively
gave Iran a blueprint for designing a bomb. James Risen has
vowed to go to jail rather than testify at Sterling's trial,
which is set to begin in January.
In a story broadcast Sunday, General Michael Hayden, who led
CIA until 2009 and, before that, led
the NSA, told
on 60 Minutes he does not think Risen should be forced to
divulge his source.
MICHAEL HAYDEN: I'm conflicted. I know the damage that is done.
And I do. But I also know the free press necessity in a free
And it actually might be that I think, no, he's wrong,
that was a mistake, that was a terrible thing to do, America
will suffer because of that story.
But then I have to think
about: So, how do I redress that? And if the method of
redressing that actually harms the broad freedom of the press,
that's still wrong.
The government needs to be strong enough to
keep me safe, but I don't want it so strong that it threatens my
AMY GOODMAN: Well, the Obama administration must now decide if
it will try to force James Risen's testimony and risk sending
one of the nation's most prominent national security journalists
President Obama has already developed a reputation as
the most aggressive in history when it comes to targeting
whistleblowers. His Justice Department has brought eight cases
so far, more than all previous administrations combined.
Friday, federal prosecutors hinted they may decide not to press
for Risen's testimony, under new guidelines issued earlier this
year that make it harder to subpoena journalists for their
James Risen's answer to this saga has been to write another
book. Released today, it's titled Pay Any Price: Greed, Power,
and Endless War.
He writes the book is his answer to how, quote,
"to best challenge the government's draconian efforts to crack
down on aggressive investigative reporting and suppress the
truth in the name of ceaseless war."
James Risen, welcome back to Democracy Now!
JAMES RISEN: Thanks for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: It's great to have you with us.
JAMES RISEN: Thanks.
AMY GOODMAN: So, your new book is Pay Any Price: Greed, Power,
and Endless War. You're quoting John Kennedy here.
JAMES RISEN: Yes, yes. And I think that's what we have done
since 9/11. We've paid an enormous price in the name of what we
- we started this war after 9/11, this global war on terror, in
order to seek justice or retribution or whatever you - however
you want to characterize the attitude of America right after
But today it's become essentially a search for cash, and
there's lots of people involved in the war on terror today who
are doing it because they're ambitious, because they want status
or power or money. And I think of it kind of in the historical
The historical context is kind of like in the Middle Ages
when you had the Thirty Years' War or the Hundred Years' War in
Europe, where you developed a whole new class of mercenary
soldiers, who all they did their entire careers is go from one
country to another to fight wars for money.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, as you expose a great deal in Pay Any Price,
you yourself are under, as I just documented, enormous pressure.
JAMES RISEN: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you continue to write these front-page
pieces for The New York Times, write this book, Pay Any Price,
as you face the possibility of years in jail?
JAMES RISEN: Well, it's what I do. It's my job. You know, it's
what keeps me sane, is to keep going. If I just gave in to them,
then I would be, you know, failing in what I want to do.
to keep finding out the truth. It's the thing I've tried to do
my whole life, is be a reporter and be a writer. It's the only
thing I know how to do.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, in a moment, we're going to talk extensively
about these stunning revelations in Pay Any Price, but if you
could go back to what you revealed, before Edward Snowden, and
how it eventually came into The New York Times, that won it and
you a Pulitzer Prize?
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, well, the - I guess you mean the original NSA
We, in 2004, Eric Lichtblau and I, had a number of
different sources who began to tell us early on in 2004 that
they were very - they knew something really big, they knew the
biggest secret in the government, but they couldn't tell us,
because they were so nervous. They were very tortured by what
And it took months of kind of patience and talking
and reporting for Eric and I to figure out exactly what it was
that they were talking about, and finally we were able to piece
it all together. And in the fall of 2004, we had the story ready
I had a great confrontation over the telephone with Michael
Hayden, who you just saw, where I read him the - I got him on
the phone kind of by bluffing the PR person at the NSA and said,
"I need to talk to him right now." And I was shocked that he got
on the phone.
And I read him the top of the draft of the story,
and he goes, "[gasps]." And that's when I knew we had it. And
so, we had the story ready.
But then, by, you know, then, Hayden
and the government started to crack down on The New York Times
and pressured them to hold the story 'til - even though it was
ready about two or three weeks before the election, in
mid-October 2004. And then, after the election -
AMY GOODMAN: Well, wait.
JAMES RISEN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you just explain, what does it mean when the
government pressures, you know, the leading newspaper in the
JAMES RISEN: Well, they -
AMY GOODMAN: What does that look like? Do they march through the
offices of The New York Times into Bill Keller the executive
JAMES RISEN: No. Well, usually what they ask is for us to go to
The first meeting was between - I think it was probably
early October, late September of 2004, between me and the
Washington bureau chief at the time, Phil Taubman, and John
McLaughlin, who was then the acting CIA director, and his chief
of staff, John Moseman.
And we met at the CIA director's
downtown office at the old executive office building. And it was
a very funny meeting, because at that time they didn't want to
acknowledge that the story was right. They didn't want to
And so, they had all these hypothetical
- we had this very weird hypothetical conversation, where they
"Well, if you were to - if the government was doing
what you say they were doing, it would be very bad for you to
And then they - then, that was just the beginning
of a whole series of meetings with the editors and us, the
reporters, in which they said that this is the crown jewel of
the U.S. counterterrorism operation, and that if you reveal
this, this will damage national security.
And so, that was
essentially the argument that they used then and they used
throughout the entire process.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it went higher than you and the Washington
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, it kept going higher and higher and higher.
AMY GOODMAN: And the election is coming closer and closer and
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, yeah, and they met with Taubman and Keller.
And then we had - you know, we in the newspaper, the editors and
reporters - met to discuss the story, and Bill Keller decided to
hold it. And then the election - you know, so he decided to not
run it before the election. And then, after the election -
AMY GOODMAN: I mean -
JAMES RISEN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it could have changed the election? I
mean, explain the nut -
JAMES RISEN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: - of your revelation.
JAMES RISEN: Basically, the story was that we found out that the
U.S. was spying on Americans - the NSA was spying on Americans
electronically, listening to their phone calls, international
phone calls, back and forth with people overseas, and gathering
lots of - doing lots of data mining on their phone and email,
and also getting the content of their email, and doing that
without court approval.
They were going around the
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, which had been
set up specifically for that purpose of providing secret
warrants for spying on - for eavesdropping on spies and
terrorists or suspected spies and terrorists.
And the government
had decided to go around the law, go around the courts, and not
tell anyone else that they were doing that, except a couple
hand-picked people in Congress, who were like the chairmen of
the intelligence committees. And they were keeping this secret
from everyone so they could do it on a vast scale.
believed that what we were - the people who talked to us about
it believed that it was unconstitutional. And that's why we were
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Bill Binney for a minute, who
we had on Democracy Now!
William Binney was the National
Security Agency whistleblower, spent nearly 40 years at the NSA,
but retired about a month after
September 11, 2001, due to
concerns over unchecked domestic surveillance.
Democracy Now! in 2012, Binney explained what happened.
WILLIAM BINNEY: After 9/11, all the wraps came off for NSA, and
they decided to - between the White House and NSA and CIA, they
decided to eliminate the protections on U.S. citizens and
collect on domestically.
So they started collecting from a
commercial - the one commercial company that I know of that
participated provided over 300 - probably, on the average, about
320 million records of communication of a U.S. citizen to a U.S.
citizen inside this country.
AMY GOODMAN: What company?
WILLIAM BINNEY: AT&T. It was long-distance communications. So
they were providing billing data. At that point, I knew I could
not stay, because it was a direct violation of the
constitutional rights of everybody in the country.
violated the pen register law and Stored Communications Act, the
Electronic Privacy Act, the intelligence acts of 1947 and 1978.
I mean, it was just this whole series of - plus all the laws
covering federal communications governing telecoms.
I mean, all
those laws were being violated, including the Constitution. And
that was a decision made that wasn't going to be reversed, so I
could not stay there.
I had to leave.
AMY GOODMAN: That was National Security Agency whistleblower
William Binney. So he leaves, and he ultimately has a gun put to
his head by federal authorities in his shower - he's a diabetic
amputee - his kid and his wife also being held at gunpoint.
JAMES RISEN: Right, yes, unfortunately, and I have a chapter in
my new book about the NSA whistleblowers early on, including
Bill and Diane Roark and Tom Drake and some of the others. And
it's remarkable what happened to them at the NSA.
What we found
out, years later - I did not know Bill, I didn't know Diane or
Tom. They were never our sources. But what we found out was, the
government thought that they were our sources for our New York
Times story, and they were persecuted as a result, even though
they had never come to the press.
And I detail in the new book,
Diane Roark, in particular, suffered amazing persecution. And
she tried - even though she tried to go through the channel -
AMY GOODMAN: Explain who she was - is.
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, Diane Roark - along with Bill,
was the House Intelligence Committee staffer in charge of
oversight of the NSA, and right at the time of 9/11.
right after he found out about this new program, went to her,
her house in suburban Washington, and told her what he had heard
about. And Diane was outraged and shocked, and she couldn't
believe that it was authorized.
She thought this must be some
kind of rogue program that nobody really knew about. And so, she
went to the chairman of the - she went to her bosses, the staff
director of the House Intelligence Committee and the minority
staff director, to warn them that they've got to tell the
chairman and the vice chairman of the committee what's going on.
And then she gets this message back:
"Don't talk about this
anymore. Don't investigate it. And keep your mouth shut."
she realizes that the chairman and the vice chairman already
know about it and are keeping it secret.
And so, she then tries
to - goes on this long odyssey within the government of going to
all these powerful people that she knows inside the government
to try to warn them about this illegal and unconstitutional
And every time she goes to someone that she respects
and who is very powerful, she realizes they already know,
they're in on the secret, and they're keeping their mouths shut.
And finally, about a year later - a couple years later, after
our story comes out, the government thinks that she's our
source, and they raid her house, and they raid Bill's house and
a few other people, like Tom Drake.
AMY GOODMAN: So, the piece doesn't get published before the
election. You try again right after the election.
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, we convinced the editors, well, if you're not
going to run it now, let us try again after the election. And
so, after the election, they said OK. And so Eric and I go start
working on the story again.
We get it re-edited by our editor,
Rebecca Corbett, and we have it all ready to go again. You know,
we do a lot more reporting. I remember we, Eric and I, knocked
on doors, and we went to this one guy who we knew, at his house
late at night right before Christmas - we knew he knew about
this, and we knock on his door, and he just starts yelling at us
for bothering him. And he was clearly scared. He didn't want to
But we had the story ready to go by mid- to late December
of 2004, and then the editors killed it again for the same
reasons, that it's national security.
And so, by that time, the story was dead. I knew it was - they
were not going to run it at all. And so, I had a previously
scheduled book leave to work on my book, State of War, and so I
decided I'm going to put it in my book. And so I did.
when I came back from book leave in the summer - spring or
summer of 2005, you know, and I finished the book throughout the
summer, and I think by late summer, I told the editors,
going to be in my book, so you should think about running it."
AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to Bill Keller in 60 Minutes with Lesley
Stahl, when she asked him, then the executive editor of The New
York Times, about a meeting he was summoned to at the White
House that made Keller decide not to run James Risen's story.
BILL KELLER: The president said, you know,
"If there's another
attack like 9/11, you know, we're going to be called up before
Congress to explain how we let that happen, and you should be
sitting alongside us."
It was, in effect, you know, "You could
have blood on your hands."
LESLEY STAHL: He was saying, if anything goes wrong, we're going
to blame you.
BILL KELLER: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Bill Keller, executive editor of The New
York Times. What was your answer to him? I'm sure he said that
JAMES RISEN: Well, we had lots of talks over about 14 months.
And actually, their talks - you know, the talks we had, me and
Eric had, with the editors were very high-minded. It was an
interesting debate. And we debated kind of this issue of
national security versus civil liberties in a lot of ways.
always thought afterwards, you know, you could have put those
debates we had inside the paper on television. They were pretty
But ultimately, what really, I think, convinced
Bill was, in the fall of 2005, when they were - after I told
them it was going to be in my book, and they decided to
re-engage on the story -
AMY GOODMAN: Well, that's putting it politely. It's going to be
very embarrassing -
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, right.
AMY GOODMAN: - as their top national security reporter
reveals his revelations not in the pages of the Times, but in
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, yeah. Well, what they said was, "We'll think
about putting" - after I told them it was going to be in my
book, in the late summer of 2005, what they said was,
think about putting it in the paper."
But they weren't committed
They wanted to negotiate again with the government. And
so, there were a whole series of new meetings with the
government, and which was very frustrating to me.
government told them that fall was:
"Risen and Lichtblau have it
wrong. We're not listening to anybody's phone calls. We're only
getting the metadata, you know, the calling data."
And when the
editors came back and told us that, we told - Eric and I said,
"They're lying to you."
And finally, after a while, Eric and I
were able to convince them, you know, that they were being lied
to, and I think that had a major impact on their final decision
to run the story.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, the story comes out, and you win a Pulitzer
Prize for your book. But there is something else that the Times
decided not to publish -
JAMES RISEN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: - that is what you are being prosecuted for
JAMES RISEN: Right. There was another story, a CIA operation
involving the Iran nuclear weapons program, in which the CIA had
used a Russian defector to give nuclear blueprints to the
Iranians. And the idea was that they were supposed to be flawed
blueprints that would then send the Iranians down the wrong
track on building a bomb.
But the Russian told them immediately,
"Oh, I can see the flaws," because he was a scientist, he was a
"I can see the flaws. The Iranians
are going to see the flaws."
And then he sent a letter.
gave the blueprints to the Iranians, he gave a letter to the
"You're going to see that there are problems in
And so, it's quite possible that the Iranians
were able to - by being tipped off, were able to find good
information in them and ignore the bad information.
And that was in my book. I had written that for the paper in -
before, and the editors had decided not to run it because the
White House asked them not to on national security grounds. And
after my book came out, the government began leak investigations
of both the NSA story and other things in my book, including
I think they finally decided not to come after The
New York Times on the NSA story, because it would have meant a
major constitutional showdown. And I think they decided to find
something else in my book to come after me on, to isolate me
from The New York Times.
And they picked the
AMY GOODMAN: And they want to know your source.
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, they want to know who my sources are for that
AMY GOODMAN: Did it surprise you that it went from the
administration to the
JAMES RISEN: Yes. I thought that once the Obama administration
came into office, that the whole thing would be dropped.
was very surprised that the Obama administration continued to
pursue the case, when, in 2009, they issued a new subpoena. And
they've continued to pursue this ever since.
AMY GOODMAN: You told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd,
President Obama is,
"the greatest enemy of press freedom in a
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, I think that his record speaks for itself.
He's gone after - he's prosecuted more whistleblowers and gone
after more journalists than any president in history.
- I think that record is going to be a major part of his legacy,
of trying to erode press freedom in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to New York Times Pulitzer
Prize-winning investigative journalist James Risen.
He has just
published a new book - it's out today - called Pay Any Price:
Greed, Power, and Endless War. When we come back, we'll talk
about what he calls "the homeland security-industrial complex."
Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War
and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.
We're spending the hour with
James Risen, investigative journalist with The New York Times,
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His new book, just out today,
is Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War.
pursued by the U.S. government. Will you reveal the name of your
JAMES RISEN: No.
AMY GOODMAN: Because?
JAMES RISEN: I just think that the - you know, you cannot have
aggressive investigative reporting in America without
And without aggressive investigative
reporting, we can't really have a democracy, because the only
real oversight for the government is an independent and
And I think that's what the government really
fears more than anything else, is an aggressive investigative
reporting in which we shine a light on what's going on inside
the government. And we can't do that without maintaining the
confidentiality of sources.
AMY GOODMAN: Has President Obama, Eric Holder or anyone else in
the administration signaled to you that they may not demand that
you testify and reveal your source?
JAMES RISEN: No.
AMY GOODMAN: These reports that were in The Washington Post on
Friday, and Michael Hayden saying, former NSA head saying, that
perhaps you shouldn't be prosecuted, do they encourage you?
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, well, I'm glad to hear that, but we'll see. I
don't know what's going to happen.
AMY GOODMAN: In June, Attorney General Eric Holder met with a
group of journalists to discuss press freedom issues and was
asked about the Justice Department's subpoena of you, of James
Risen, to testify in the trial of ex-CIA analyst Jeffrey
According to the Times, Holder said, quote,
as I'm attorney general, no reporter who is doing his job is
going to go to jail. As long as I'm attorney general, someone
who is doing their job is not going to get prosecuted."
JAMES RISEN: Well, we'll see. I'm not sure what that means, you
know, and it's all still in the courts right now. So...
AMY GOODMAN: And Holder is resigning.
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, yeah. So, we'll see. It's very unclear what's
going to happen next.
AMY GOODMAN: Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, you
have a series of stunning revelations. Why don't you begin by
laying them out?
JAMES RISEN: OK. Well, you know, I set out to - to me, what
war on terror became, as I said earlier, this enormous search
for power and status and cash. And I began to realize that what
we had in the war on terror was we had deregulated national
what Dick Cheney meant when he said
the gloves come off. That means deregulating the whole national
security apparatus, taking all the limits off of what we can do
in national security.
At the same time, we poured hundreds and
hundreds of billions of dollars into brand-new counterterrorism
And the FBI, the CIA and the new Homeland Security
department, all the - and the Pentagon, they all had more money
than they knew what to do with. And so, they began - to me, it's
kind of like the banking crisis. You had enormous money going
into a deregulated industry, meaning the counterterrorism
industry, and you had lots of unintended and bizarre
And so, that's what I've found, is the crazy
programs that developed; the bizarre nature of the whole war on
terror, if you pull up the hood and look inside of it, is just
And I open the book with this, to me, kind of a metaphor for
everything that we have, what's going on now, is, in 2009, there
was a small ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Section
60, which is where the dead of the Iraq War lay buried. And it
was a small group of pro-war people who were celebrating the
sixth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, and which they - what
they call Iraq 'Liberation' Day.
It's the day that the statue of
Saddam was pulled down in Firdos Square. And I saw Paul
Wolfowitz there. And the woman who ran that - who was sponsoring
that day's ceremony was Viola Drath, who was an aging Georgetown
socialite. And she was very pro-Iraq War.
And then, two years
later, she was found murdered in her apartment - in her house in
Georgetown. And her husband, who had been going around
Washington dressed as a general in the Iraqi army, was arrested
for her murder. He had claimed that he had been named a general
in the Iraqi army by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
he was arrested, the police found a receipt from a printing
place in Washington where he had counterfeited the letter and
the certificate of being a general in the Iraqi army. And he was
a total fraud. He's now been convicted of her murder.
thought that was a metaphor for the fact that this war on terror
is - a lot of it is just a fabrication, that we are now trying
to unravel and deal with.
And so, I began to look and to see all of the various things
that have happened in this war. One of the first things I came
across was how the United States had airlifted billions of
dollars to Iraq for use by the Iraqi - the new Iraqi government,
and billions had been stolen and moved to Lebanon by Iraqi
Then I began to look at the case of Dennis Montgomery,
who was a -
AMY GOODMAN: But before you go to Dennis Montgomery -
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: - the billions of dollars from the U.S. went
from Iraq to Lebanon.
JAMES RISEN: Right. It was stolen -
AMY GOODMAN: Where?
JAMES RISEN: It was stolen from Baghdad and moved secretly to a
bunker in Lebanon, where it was being held by wealthy and
powerful Iraqis, because they wanted to steal it and use it for
themselves, and also probably with some Lebanese money
launderers who were watching over it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, this billion dollars of taxpayer, U.S.
taxpayer, money is -
JAMES RISEN: Well, it was actually Iraqi government money that
had been held in the United States, but the U.S. government was
airlifting it by the U.S. Air Force. So, it was just a - you
know, no one was doing any oversight of any of these programs.
AMY GOODMAN: Dennis Montgomery?
Dennis Montgomery is a fascinating character, who -
he was a computer software person, self-styled expert, who
developed what he said was special technology that would allow
him to do things with computers that other people couldn't do.
One of the things that he developed was this imaging technology
that he said he could find images on broadcast network news
tapes from Al Jazeera. He said that he could read special secret
al-Qaeda codes in the banners on the broadcasts of Al Jazeera.
And the CIA believed this.
And he was giving them information
based on watching hours and hours of Al Jazeera tapes, saying
"I know where the next al-Qaeda attack is going to be based
- is going to happen."
And the Bush administration and the CIA
fell for this.
AMY GOODMAN: And it was in the news zipper at the bottom of the
Al Jazeera broadcasts?
JAMES RISEN: Well, he says it was in the banner. But anyway.
so, it was this great - if you talk to him, he argues, well,
they - that's what they were looking for. You know, they
convinced him to look for this. You know, it depends on who you
But it was one of the great hoaxes of the war on
terror, where they actually grounded planes in Europe, the Bush
administration, based on information they were getting from
Dennis Montgomery's so-called decryption of Al Jazeera
And then there's a whole number of other things, like Alarbus,
which was this covert program at the Pentagon where a
Palestinian involved in that was actually trying to use the bank
account set up by the secret program, Pentagon program, to
launder hundreds of millions of dollars.
And the FBI
investigated this, but then tried to keep the whole thing quiet.
AMY GOODMAN: How much did the U.S. government give to Dennis
JAMES RISEN: Millions of dollars. And then he used - he was a
heavy gambler and eventually, I think, had a lot of financial
problems as a result of that.
So, it's a strange - to me, the
Dennis Montgomery story is one of the strangest, because what it
shows is, early on in the war on terror, as I said, the CIA and
all these other agencies had so much money to spend on
counterterrorism that they were willing to throw it at
They were so afraid of the next terrorist attack
that they were willing to believe anybody who came up with some
And I called that chapter about Montgomery, you know, "The
Emperor of the War on Terror," because nobody wanted to say that
the emperor had no clothes.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it had very real effects, aside from
spending all that money.
JAMES RISEN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: For example, planes being sent back.
JAMES RISEN: Yes, yes. There were planes grounded. International
flights between the United States and Europe and Mexico were
grounded. There was talk at the White House even of shooting
down planes based on this information.
AMY GOODMAN: Because they could be used, as with September 11th,
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, as missiles or whatever. And so, it was
crazy. It was absolutely insane.
AMY GOODMAN: And it was only the French government who then did
JAMES RISEN: Yes, yes. Yeah, the French government finally - you
know, the U.S. - the CIA and the Bush administration didn't want
to tell anybody what was really happening, where they were
getting this information.
information about Al Jazeera, we can't tell you."
the French intelligence service and the French government said,
"You know, you're grounding our planes. You've got to tell us
where you're getting this information."
And they got - they
finally shared the information with them, and the French got a
French tech firm to look at this, and they said,
"This is nuts.
This is fabrication."
And after a while, the CIA was finally
convinced maybe the French were right, and they stopped talking
about it. They didn't do anything else.
They just like shut it
down eventually, but never wanted to talk about what had really
AMY GOODMAN: Then Dennis Montgomery, revealed as a con man -
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: - in jail for that?
JAMES RISEN: Well, no, he's not in jail. But it was a - he
actually got more contracts after that, with the Pentagon and
other agencies. And he continued to operate for a long time.
know, he kind of went from one agency to the other.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to James Risen, Pulitzer
Prize-winning investigative journalist for The New York Times.
His new book, just out today, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and
Endless War. When we come back, war corrupts, endless war
corrupts absolutely. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We're spending the hour with James Risen, the
investigative reporter for The New York Times who won a Pulitzer
Prize for his book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA
and the Bush Administration.
It also won him, well, becoming a target, not
only of the Bush administration, but of the Obama
administration, for year after year, right through to today. He
could face years in jail for not revealing a source on one of
the stories that he has exposed around a
program called Merlin and the
U.S. giving flawed blueprints for a nuclear trigger to Iran.
This issue of facing years in jail, how are you preparing
JAMES RISEN: Well, as you said, I've had a lot of time to think
about it. And it bothered me a lot more at first. I was more
nervous about it when it first started.
But now it's just like
kind of background noise in my life, and so I'm just kind of
used to it now, because I know exactly - I have no doubts about
what I'm going to do, and so that makes it pretty easy.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you're covering the very people who could put
you in jail.
JAMES RISEN: Yeah, sometimes, yes.
As I said earlier, that's the
only way to deal with this, is to keep going and to keep - the
only thing that the government respects is staying aggressive
and continuing to investigate what the government is doing.
that's the only way that we in the journalism industry can kind
of force - you know, push the government back against the - to
maintain press freedom in the United States.