The first Nobel Peace Prize winner with a kill list.
By Conor Friedersdorf
The Obama administration wants to jail James Risen, a reporter who exposed Bush-era wrongdoing, if he doesn't reveal one of his sources.
In Barack Obama's rise to national prominence, when he criticized the Bush Administration for its false claims about WMDs in Iraq, its torture of detainees, and its illegal program of spying on American citizens without warrants, he owed a particular debt of gratitude to a New York Timesnational security reporter. In a series of scoops as impressive as any amassed during the War on Terrorism, James Risen reported in 2004 that the CIA failed to tell President Bush about relatives of Iraqi scientists who swore that the country had abandoned its weapons program; the same year, he was first to reveal that the CIA was waterboarding detainees in Iraq; and in 2005, he broke the Pulitzer Prize winning story about the secret NSA spying program.
These scoops so embarrassed and angered the Bush Administration that some of its senior members wanted Risen to end up in jail. They never managed to make that happen. But President Obama might. He once found obvious value in Risen's investigative journalism. Its work that would've been impossible to produce without confidential sources and an ability to credibly promise that he'd never reveal their identities. But no matter. The Obama Administration is now demanding that Risen reveal his source for a 2006 scoop about CIA missteps in Iran. If he refuses to cooperate, which is his plan, he faces the possibility of jail time.
Somewhere, Dick Cheney is smiling.
From later in the story...
In 2006, Risen expanded on his newspaper reporting in a book entitled "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration." Its a chapter of that book that concerns us here:
In Chapter 9 of State of War, I reported on Operation Merlin, an intelligence operation in 2000 during the Clinton Administration that was intended to stall - but which may have actually helped - Iran in its efforts to develop a nuclear weapons program. The plan behind Merlin was to have a former Russian scientist provide Iranian officials with faulty nuclear blueprints. The CIA hoped that based on those flawed plans, Iran would build an inoperable nuclear weapon....
As reported in Chapter 9, Merlin was deeply flawed and mismanaged from the start. First, the flaws in the nuclear blueprints were so obvious that the Russian scientist noticed them within minutes of seeing the plans. When the scientist explained this to his CIA handlers, they inexplicably refused to call off the operation and simply told him that he should go ahead and deliver the plans to the Iranians.