JAMES RISEN IS a legend in the world of investigative and national security journalism. As a reporter for the New York Times, Risen broke some of the most important stories of the post 9/11 era, from the warrantless surveillance against Americans conducted under the Bush-Cheney administration, to black prison sites run by the CIA, to failed covert actions in Iran. Risen has won the Pulitzer and other major journalism awards. But perhaps what he is now most famous for is fighting a battle under both the Bush and Obama administrations as they demanded — under threat of imprisonment —the name of one of Risen’s alleged confidential sources. In the end, Risen prevailed and refused to testify and he was not locked up. But during the course of his case, there were rulings that could have far reaching implications for journalists, particularly in a climate where the president of the United States is characterizing news outlets as enemies of the people, contemplating arresting reporters, and is conducting at least 27 leak investigations. All before the end of his first year in office.
But it isn’t just the government that Risen had to fight. He also battled his own editors and other powerful figures at the New York Times. Some of those people pushed the narrative that Iraq had WMDs and they regularly colluded with senior officials at the CIA, NSA, and White House in an effort to kill — or delay publication of — Risen’s stories. James Risen has now written an extensive account of his years at the New York Times and he names names.
Risen is now a senior national security correspondent at The Intercept where his incredible inside story has now been published. We talked with Risen about his career at the New York Times in a special edition of Intercepted.
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