James Risen on NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden: He Sparked a New National Debate on Surveillance


New York Times investigative reporter James Risen faces jail time if he refuses to name a whistleblowing source, but he insists the actual whistleblowers, including Edward Snowden, are “much more courageous that we reporters are.” Risen won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting about warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the National Security Agency. “We revealed the framework for … how the Bush administration turned the NSA on the American people,” Risen says. He argues Snowden revealed that “under Obama and in the years since we had first written about it, the American people had become much more of an online citizenry … as a result, the NSA had grown dramatically in their ability to watch the online presence of Americans.”

Image Credit: Freedom of the Press Foundation


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you have covered whistleblowers for years. They’re your sources for years. And now, in a sense, you have become one yourself for press freedom. And you write about, in Pay Any Price, these remarkable people—


AMY GOODMAN: —who face all odds, like Bill Binney and others.

JAMES RISEN: Yeah. Well, I really respect them much more. They face much more than I ever do. They’re much more courageous, I think, than we reporters are, you know, especially me. I mean, Diane Roark, who I talked about a little bit before, is really one of my heroes. She went—she did everything that you would expect someone to do in the government. And to me, her case is a perfect example of why Edward Snowden had to do what he did, that he could never have gone through the system. People say, “Oh, why didn’t he go through the system?” She tried to go through the system and was persecuted for it.

AMY GOODMAN: What about Edward Snowden?

JAMES RISEN: I think he’s a whistleblower, you know, and I think he’s in the same tradition of whistleblowers.

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times recently said they would consider him, call him a whistleblower. Can you talk about the process, the decision that the Times made in using that terminology for him?

JAMES RISEN: I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that that was an issue. That’s interesting. I just think he is. I mean, I think it’s just a simple fact. He has revealed lots of information..

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