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October 19th, 2014
01:57 PM ET

James Risen on whistleblowers, war, and how we've let ourselves "become terrorized"

Brian Stelter interviews James Risen, the investigative reporter for The New York Times who is ensnared in the government prosecution of a former CIA officer. The government wants Risen to reveal that the officer was one of his sources for a damning 2006 report about a botched CIA operation to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Risen refuses to testify, so he faces the prospect of jail time if he is found to be in contempt of court.

Does he think it will come to that? "I don't know," he said. "I mean, I really don't know what the government is thinking now. And it's really kind of up to them at this point."

The prosecution has, in some cases, helped Risen in his reporting: "Some people have come to me and said, you know, I recognize the fact that you're willing to protect sources, so I'm willing to talk to you."

Risen's latest book is "Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War." Here's part of Stelter's exchange with him:

STELTER: You write in your book that crazy is the new normal when it comes to the war on terror. And the politicians and the press both dramatically overstate the risks to America from terrorists. If that's the case, why do we not hear that more on television? Why do we not read that more in newspapers and online?

RISEN: Oh, I think fear sells. And I think, unfortunately, it's easy to do a lot of fear-mongering and get ahead politically in the United States. You know, terrorism is a real threat, but we shouldn't be overstating it.

People worry about these groups, but they're not 10 feet tall. They're not marching down Broadway. They are, you know, we could deal with them without transforming our society.

That's what bothers me the most is we've allowed ourselves to become terrorized. And we've done that to ourselves. We've transformed American society in ways that were not necessary to deal with this threat.


Filed under: Reliable Sources
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