New York Times investigative reporter James Risen, notorious for exposing (along with colleague Eric Lichtblau) two anti-terrorist government programs during the Bush years, filed an affidavit in federal court in Virginia on Tuesday, refusing to comply with a subpoena that he identify a source in his 2006 book “State of War” about a C.I.A. plan to feed Iran bad information to cripple its nuclear program.
After a long promotional listing of his journalistic credentials, Risen in the affidavit cites a 2006 report from ABC News claiming the Bush administration had harassed Risen and other journalists. "The Bush administration eventually singled me out as a target for political harassment," Risen writes in the filing.
Risen’s affidavit makes it clear he thinks he and Lichtblau properly exposed an illegal and unconstitutional wiretapping program by the Bush administration, with language more blunt than his reporting for the Times:
In 2006, I was awarded the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, for reporting on President Bush’s illegal domestic wiretapping program....the Bush Administration had, in all likelihood, violated the law and the United States Constitution by secretly conducting warrantless domestic wiretapping on American citizens.
“American citizens”? The phrase implies the monitoring of communications between citizens when in fact the National Security Agency surveillance program (which Congress voted to maintain in August 2007, to the paper’s chagrin) focuses on international calls of people located in the U.S. suspected of terrorist ties -- who aren't necessarily U.S. citizens.
For someone who claims in the same document to be critical of the government “regardless of the administration in power,” Risen is quite sensitive to all the “right-wing groups” and “right-wing pundits and bloggers” out to get him. Risen insisted “the administration and its supporters” were after him: “...an organized campaign of hate mail from right wing groups with close ties to the White House was launched, inundating me with personal threats...Right wing pundits and bloggers supporting the Bush administration took to television and the Internet to call for the White House and the Justice Department to prosecute me for espionage.”
You can read the full affidavit at the Federation of American Scientists page, where Steven Aftergood heads the Project on Government Secrecy.
Risen even defended, though less vociferously, the more controversial wrecking, in a June 2006 article by he and Lichtblau, of a federal program (by all accounts perfectly legal) which monitored a database of international banking transactions known as SWIFT in order to detect terrorist financing. Risen called it “another government program of questionable legality.” Not even the Times’ public editor agreed with that. After public deliberation, he said the paper should not have published Risen and Lichtblau's expose.