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U.S. Government's "War on Leaks"; Human Rights Abuses in Myanmar; Imagine a World

Aired November 6, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: under fire from the United States government, journalist James Risen faces years in

jail for protecting a source.


JAMES RISEN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": ... the Obama administration is the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): That accusation and the rebuttal from President Obama's former press secretary.

Also ahead the persecution of Myanmar's Rohingya minority ahead of Obama's trip next week, should Washington be applying more pressure for



AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.

Reporting the truth can be a dangerous business. Journalists around the world risk persecution, prison and sometimes death.

Yesterday on this program we highlighted the plight of British Iranian journalist, Maziar Bahari, who was jailed and tortured after being accused

of spying during the disputed Iranian election of 2009. His story, the subject of the new film, "Rosewater," directed by daily news show host Jon


But as Stewart pointed out, it's a global problem.


JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": And not just Iran, you know it's -- Turkey has all these -- Al Jazeera reporters are being held in Egypt.

The United States has prisoners in solitary. We put pressure on journalists. You see that now.


AMANPOUR: And tonight, we bring you the story of that very pressure right here in the United States, the home of a constantly protected free

press. In fact, the Obama administration has used the 1917 Espionage Act to go after whistleblowers and journalists more than all previous

administrations combined.

One of the most prominent is my guest tonight, "The New York Times" reporter James Risen, who even before Edward Snowden blew the lid on

warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the NSA. He did that back in 2005 and he's since been pursued by both the Bush and Obama administrations.

So I asked him whether he thinks he will, in fact, actually have to go to jail if he refuses to testify at the trial that centers on another of

his stories, a botched CIA program to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.


AMANPOUR: James Risen, welcome to the program.

RISEN: Thanks for having me.

AMANPOUR: Let us get to the heart of the matter. You face potential jail time unless some kind of deal is struck because you're refusing to

reveal your sources.

First and foremost, do you think that it's going to come to that?

RISEN: I don't know what's -- what the government has planned. I don't know what they're going to do. You know, I've never discussed the

details of the ongoing case. But I can just say that, you know, I believe that I'm trying to uphold the traditions of journalism. And that's what

I'm going to continue to do.

AMANPOUR: The story that you reported, that's got you into this trouble with the Obama administration, is precisely what, if you can sum it

up in a nutshell?

RISEN: Well, this is a -- it's -- actually it's difficult to sum it up in a nutshell. It's a long-running battle between me and the -- first

the Bush administration and then the Obama administration.

One was about the NSA story in "The New York Times" and the second was related to my book, "State of War," and a chapter about a CIA operation

that -- a flawed CIA operation involving the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

AMANPOUR: Well, I know you don't want to talk about the case, but actually the current attorney general, Holder, has been talking about it.

I want to play you this is what he said about your specific case just recently.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have been in touch with Mr. Risen's lawyers. We've talked about a variety of things. And you know, if

what we have talked about remains true, I think there will be a resolution of that that will be satisfactory to everybody.

But as I said, no one's going to be going to jail. No reporter's going to jail as long as I'm attorney general.


AMANPOUR: So, James Risen, there he has said it. He's basically protecting you, saying that nobody is going to jail.

Do you think that you will escape the fate of going to jail?

Do you believe what he just said?

RISEN: 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. I think he just misspoke in that clip. So I don't know what the government has planned. It's kind of confusing to me right

now where they stand.

AMANPOUR: The Obama administration has prosecuted more leakers under all these laws, the Espionage Act, et cetera, than all the other presidents


How does that square with you?

I mean, isn't that really amazing when you think about it?

RISEN: Yes. You know, I've said before and I believe that the Obama administration is the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.

And they have, in an Orwellian new program that will also -- encourages workers to spy on their coworkers. It's a very dangerous trend,

I think, that the Obama administration is pursuing.

AMANPOUR: Are you at all conflicted about, for instance, your general support and sympathy for Edward Snowden?

Clearly what he did in terms of revealing the spying and the extent of the surveillance on ordinary civilians is one thing.

But as you know, there have been a lot of writing about how, in fact, even sort of die-hard whistleblowers who've challenged the system are

concerned about the foreign espionage or the foreign kind of dealings that he revealed.

For instance, one told "The New York Times" that Snowden's references to hacking into China went too far.

Do you agree that he may be going from whistleblower to traitor, as some people say?

RISEN: No. I think Edward Snowden is a whistleblower in the truest sense. I think he restarted a debate about domestic spying that we had

begun with our stories in "The New York Times." And I think it's been very important for our society to have that debate.

AMANPOUR: But nonetheless, you know, it's one thing to expose incredible violations against ordinary civilians by the government. And

it's another thing to expose what might be called government business as usual in terms of whatever they do, you know, China spies, the U.S. spies,


Do you make any distinction between those two very different things?

RISEN: I think when every reporter tries to be careful on what you report on and you try to weigh those things, but it should be -- in a

democracy, it should be up to the journalists, to the editors and reporters and the broadcast outlets to decide what to broadcast. That's the nature

of a -- that's the whole point of having a First Amendment.

AMANPOUR: Well, your latest book, "Pay Any Price," pretty much lays out those concerns that you have. And you're basically saying that this

never-ending war on terror has come at the extreme cost of America's open society.

RISEN: You know, 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.

AMANPOUR: Are you afraid? Do you live in fear right now?

RISEN: No. I mean, I'm used to this. They've been after me since 2008. You know, it bothered me for a couple of years but now, you know, it

doesn't. And I -- you know, I wrote this new book because I wanted to -- that was my answer to the government, is I wanted to show them that I'm

going to keep writing and keep investigating.

AMANPOUR: James Risen, keep writing, keep investigating. Thank you so much for joining me.

RISEN: Thanks for having me.


AMANPOUR: And harsh accusations indeed that I put to the president's former press secretary, Jay Carney, who is now a CNN analyst and who had to

defend these crackdowns from the White House podium.


AMANPOUR: Jay Carney, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So we've just been talking to "The New York Times" journalist James Risen and we also heard from Attorney General Eric Holder,

who said the following: "As long as I'm attorney general, no journalists are going to jail for doing their job."

Do you think that that is what we can anticipate, that actually, despite all the Sturm und Drang over this case, James Risen will not have

to go to jail?

CARNEY: Well, I take the attorney general at his word. And what he said, I know because I've discussed it with him, reflects very directly

what the president feels and believes.

The president has no interest in and this administration has no interest in prosecuting journalists for doing their job.

But as you know, Christiane, 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 investigation into those leaks.

And that's why you had a lot of discussion and concern about this last year. And that's why the Justice Department put out new guidelines and why

the administration's pushing Congress to pass a shield law for journalists.

Because right now journalists are, in legal terms, pretty unprotected.

AMANPOUR: How do you react to what James Risen said, as the former press secretary, that actually this administration has been the most

damning to journalists of any ever?

I mean, it's really been a threat to journalists.

CARNEY: Well, I just think that's not true. I think Mr. Risen, whom I respect enormously and as a terrific reporter and writer, should look at

the article in "The New York Times" in June of last year, in which they took apart that accusation, that these -- that this administration -- that

President Obama's been the most prosecutorial towards journalists and leak investigation and look at the facts, which has been, on many of these

cases, more than half existed prior to President Obama taking office and were continuations of investigations that began under the previous


And I guess I'd suggest to you that there would have been a massive outcry if President Obama had come into office and stopped investigations

into leaks that were illegal, of classified information.

Having been on both sides, Christiane, having been a reporter, having been a manager of reporters who dealt with leaks of classified information,

on the one hand, and having worked in the administration as White House press secretary, you know, I have two perspectives on this.

And I think that it is sometimes lost in the journalistic community that people take an oath and they swear that they will not violate that

oath by leaking classified information. It is profoundly against that oath and against the law to do that.

AMANPOUR: Being on both sides -- now you're back in civilian life. So I guess, having been a reporter, you're now an analyst and columnist;

maybe you'll be a reporter again.

So do you actually think it is fair that under the Espionage Act, basically the government is saying that leaking information to the press is

the same as leaking information to a foreign government?

Is that what the administration is saying?

And is that fair?

CARNEY: Look, I don't think it's just the administration that's saying it. It's the law and the Supreme Court has made clear that there is

not a legal or constitutional protection for journalists. And therefore Congress needs to act to create one.

And that's something the administration supports.

I think that -- I mean, you know how information is transferred. I think in terms of the damage it can do to national security, the leak of

that classified information to CNN or to a foreign government can have the same negative impact on our national security.

AMANPOUR: And I don't know what you made of former NSA director Michael Hayden, obviously feeling quite sort of -- a little bit wobbly on

this whole issue after all these years in his interview on "60 Minutes."

Let's play it and I'll just get your reaction.



MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER HEAD OF THE NSA: I am, like America, conflicted, OK?


HAYDEN: I am. I am.

You're talking about ruining lives over things about which people are acting on principle. So I'd be very careful about it.

STAHL: So you would not be pursuing Jim if you were -- if you had the decision to make?

HAYDEN: Frankly, Lesley, I don't understand the necessity to pursue Jim.

STAHL: You're shocking me. That the former head of the NSA is saying that it's coming down too hard.

HAYDEN: I'm conflicted. I know the damage that is done and I do. I also know the free press, necessity in a free society.


AMANPOUR: So, can we agree that perhaps it wouldn't be the best idea to force Jim Risen to testify and reveal his source?

CARNEY: Well, I can certainly -- I share the sentiment and I think that Jim should not be the target and that he should not be treated in a

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 for -- we can take as a sure thing that Jim Risen's not going to go to jail or be prosecuted for this.

So -- and that's -- you know, we have to see what happens. But I think that that -- I think that's the indication that the Justice

Department is giving.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Jay Carney, thanks so much for joining us.

CARNEY: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, we'll follow Jay's former boss, President Obama, on his passage to Asia, to China and Myanmar, on his

upcoming APEC trip. How to persuade a paragon of human rights to stand up for them at home -- when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. This week, as we know, President Obama has emerged from a political beating at home in the midterm

elections, which obviously weakened him at home. Yet next week, he has to project American strength when he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping and

other world leaders at the APEC Summit in Beijing.

And then he'll have to work hard to convince Myanmar's leaders to roll on with political reforms and roll back what is an appalling human rights

record. The hopes that were raised three years ago with the release of the democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi have faded quite significantly because of

the ongoing violent assault on the Muslim Rohingya minority by angry Buddhist nationalists and Aung San Suu Kyi's failure to stand up for their


Tom Malinowski is the U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy and human rights and he joins me from the State Department to discuss the

rise of sectarian violence and government that's backsliding on reform.

Welcome. Thank you for joining us, Mr. Malinowski.


AMANPOUR: So let's get right to it. The president has been weakened at home, even his closest allies say. When he meets Xi Jinping, how is he

going to take him seriously on anything, human rights, hacking, any number of bilateral issues?

MALINOWSKI: Oh, I think that the leadership of China takes the President of the United States and the United States very ,very seriously.

They have been preparing for the summit for years and we have a very clear message to deliver on all of those issues, including human rights, which

has been and remains a central part of our relationship.

AMANPOUR: Obviously, it's a really hard slog when it comes to enforcing human rights in various parts of the world. One of the places

where we all had so much hope and where you've done so much work and preparation for this trip is Myanmar. And we just discussed this.

How to get the government there, not just the military leader, but Aung San Suu Kyi herself to stand up for the rights of these beleaguered

Muslim Rohingyas? Why is she not doing it?

MALINOWSKI: Well, I -- Burma is in the middle of a long and hard transition from an absolute dictatorship that violated the rights of every

single person in that country to what we hope will be a democracy in the future. And they've done some of the easier things, releasing political

prisoners and freeing up space for the media and for civil society after this.

And they are now facing, for the first time, the really hard structural challenges, including a challenge that was building up over

these years and years of military rule of how to get the diverse populations of this country, including Muslims and Buddhists, to be able to

live together.

And because there is resistance to reform, because there are powerful forces in the country that are wedded to the old status quo, you see a lot

of exploitation of those tensions to kind of try to divert the attention of the Burmese people away from the democracy struggle, to make the debate in

Burma about ethnic and religious identity.

And that's something that leaders there have to stand up against, whether it's the president of the country, moral leaders like Aung San Suu

Kyi and it's something that President Obama is going to talk about to all of them.

AMANPOUR: Well, let's move on to what she actually also said about reform. We're going to play this little clip of what she said recently

about what appears to be the stalled pace of reform in Myanmar, Burma.


AUNG SAN SUU KYI, MYANMAR OPPOSITION LEADER: I don't think the reform process is going forward. I don't think we're going backwards yet. But

certainly I think it has stalled for the time being. So I hope that not just the United States, but all our well wishers will be aware of this need

to assess the situation hard-headedly and not be over-optimistic. I have often said this, that over-optimism will not help us, really.


AMANPOUR: So there you clearly hear what she's saying.

What can the West do, reimpose sanctions? I mean, let's face it. You used to be from Human Rights Watch and one of your former colleagues,

somebody who's there right now -- and I'll read you what he has said about the whole idea of sanctions -- has basically said it started to backslide,

quote, "Once the Burmese sanctions were lifted, the reforms started to fail."

Do you think that's an accurate portrayal?

And should sanctions be reimposed?

MALINOWSKI: It's not an accurate portrayal in the sense that we have not actually lifted sanctions. We eased some of the sanctions of the many

that have been imposed on Burma over many years of military rule. But the core of the sanctions regime remains in place, including the targeting of

individuals in Burma, who we feel are standing against the reform process and, Christiane, just last week we added one of the most powerful

politicians in Burma to our Treasury SBN, or our sanctions list. And that sent a very powerful message that even as we continue to stand with

reformers in the country, whether it's Aung San Suu Kyi or those in the government who want to move the country forward, we are willing and able

and have been isolating and marginalizing those who stand against this process.

AMANPOUR: And, again, this is a very important trip and, as you say, you've been preparing for a long time for it. Obviously we've talked about

the challenges.

Where do you see any breakthroughs, any openings of success the president can bring back?

MALINOWSKI: Well, I don't think we're going to see breakthroughs in the short term. Burma was an opening to a breakthrough and it's one that

we always knew would take years to move from its starting point to its finishing point. And we knew the success was not guaranteed and it is

still not guaranteed.

I think if we stick with this through both engagement and through the kinds of tough actions that we continue to take, I think we've got a chance

there for something that would be a breakthrough when we look back on it and are 20 years from now.

AMANPOUR: Tom Malinowski, thank you so much indeed for joining us from the State Department.

MALINOWSKI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And a quick postscript on Chinese wealth and culture, a Beijing tycoon reportedly has bought Van Gogh's "Vases with Daisies and

Poppies" for a whopping $61.8 million. Now in the United Kingdom, the humble poppy is also expected to raise at least 15 million pounds for

fallen heroes and their families as the ceramic flowers which we visited, filling the moat around the Tower of London, are being sold for charity.

Now imagine a world where remembrance can inspire a rousing performance from an unexpected sources, a general's ode to America's war

heroes -- after this.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, our guest this week, Jon Stewart, is a comedian, a first-time film director and a passionate supporter of

America's wounded warriors. Last night he literally stood up for veterans, donating his time and his comedy to raise money for the war wounded and

their families.

An all-star cast, including Bruce Springsteen, took to the stage, but a surprise guest stole the show, none other than General Martin Dempsey,

America's top military commander. His performance was the big surprise.




AMANPOUR: An amazing baritone and can you imagine in any other country the head of the armed forces belting out show tunes? And by the

way, this event is organized by the Bob Woodruff Foundation. He is a fellow journalist who survived an IED attack covering the Iraq War.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always watch our show online at, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.