By Madalena Araujo, CNN
New York Times reporter James Risen, who is facing jail time for refusing to reveal his source for a story, has denounced the Obama Administration as “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation” in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that aired Thursday.
The current administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under The Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined.
Risen, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and author who was the first – alongside colleague Eric Lichtblau - to uncover the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program on Americans, told Amanpour that he is “trying to uphold the traditions of journalism. And that's what I'm going to continue to do.”
The U.S. government is not happy about a chapter in Risen’s 2006 book “State of War” that looks into a CIA operation that aimed to undermine Iran’s nuclear program.
He now faces years in jail as he refuses to testify in the trial of a former CIA official charged with leaking the classified information to him.
Amanpour asked Risen if he believes he will end up behind bars after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that “no reporter is going to jail as long as I'm attorney general”.
“I don't know. I mean, what he tried to imply was that there was some kind of deal between me and the government and there is no deal. We don't have a deal,” Risen said.
Risen has also vowed to “Pay Any Price” - the title of his latest book - to keep up his investigative work and claims the endless war on terror has cost the American people their open society.
“In my new book, I talk about how there is this massive spending that - you know, we've poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the war on terror with virtually no oversight because everybody's afraid to conduct any real oversight because you don't want to be labeled as being soft on terrorism.”
“And that apparatus is becoming in a sense a political consistency unto itself. That's why I think it's dangerous to have the intelligence community issuing criminal referrals to the Justice Department on stories written by American journalists. And in fact, that's giving the CIA the role of indirect censor over American journalism.”
Also on the program to react to Risen’s accusations was Former White House Press Secretary and CNN Senior Political Commentator Jay Carney.
Carney, a former reporter himself, said Risen’s claims about the White House’s relationship with the press are “not true” and that “this administration has no interest in prosecuting journalists for doing their job.”
He served as President Obama’s press secretary for more than three years, and just stepped down earlier this year.
“Many of these cases [against journalists] existed prior to President Obama taking office and were continuations of investigations that began in the previous administration,” he said.
“And I guess I suggest to you that there were would have been a massive outcry if President Obama had come into office and stopped investigations into leaks that were illegal of classified information,” Carney added.
He told Amanpour that “several things have happened in the last number of years that have created a circumstance under which more journalists have been caught up in leaks of illegal classified information.”
The problem, he added, is that "right now journalists in legal terms are pretty unprotected” and “that’s why the administration is pushing Congress to pass a shield law for journalists.”
Carney ended on a seemingly positive note concerning Risen’s case.
“I think that Jim [Risen] should not be the target, that he should not be treated in the way that the actual target of a leak investigation is treated.”
“And I think that when you look at what the Attorney General told you and what President Obama has said, I think it’s basically not only unlikely but we can take as a sure thing that Jim Risen is not going to go to jail or be prosecuted for this.”