James Risen, the co-author of the New York Times story that broke Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program was interviewed on the Today Show this morning. Watch it:
COURIC: I know that you broke the story, as we mentioned, for the New York Times. Why do you think that people who talked about this secret program came forward and told you about it?
RISEN: Well you know I think this was the most classic whistleblower case I’ve ever seen. Where people – You know, in a lot of stories people have mixed motives for why they talk to reporters, some people in some stories there’s a turf battle and they’re losing out on a turf battle, or whatever. In this case – I’ve been a reporter for about 25 years – this was the purest case of whistleblowers coming forward, people who truly believed there was something wrong going on in the government and they were motivated, I believe, by the purest reasons.
COURIC: But many critics have already alleged that they believe your sources had serious axes to grind. Why are you so convinced otherwise?
RISEN: Because I’ve talked to these people. And many of them were tormented by their knowledge of this. They truly believed that – They were troubled by the fact that they knew that they thought something was wrong “¦ [inaudible] the government and they came forward, I believe, simply to make the public aware of this.
COURIC: What specifically was upsetting to them about this whole policy?
RISEN: Well many of these people had grown up in the environment of knowing that in order to get – to listen in on Americans, you had to get a court order. And they saw that something was happening in which that was not being done. That the courts were being skirted, that Congress – that the laws had not been changed. And they believed that for whatever reason, the Bush administration was skirting the law. Now that’ll be something that we can all debate about whether or not they did skirt the law, but that was the reason that people came forward. They believed something was going wrong.
COURIC: But did they – did they have any sympathy or understanding about this new climate that this country finds itself in and the criticism the Bush administration took prior to 9/11 for not putting the pieces together and figuring out that a terrorist attack was imminent? In other words, did they acknowledge that tough times may call for tough measures?
RISEN: Oh, absolutely. These are people who are involved in that day to day, who have been involved in counterterrorism and who know this kind of issue intimately. But they believe — many of these people at least – they told me they came to us because they thought you have to follow the rules and you have to follow the law.