Bad Vibe From Bush For Journos

“The environment has never been as difficult and poisonous as it is today” for journalists reporting on the government, according to New York Times’ James Risen. At the NYT’s headquarters last night, Risen was joined by Allan Siegal, and Floyd Abrams in a panal to discuss the NSA surveillance story at what the Pentagon Papers mean today. Jill Abramson served as the moderator.

Some snippets courtesy of Huffington Post’s Ankush Khardori:

“I think the motivations were probably very similar,” Risen said, between the leakers who divulged the workings of the NSA program and those who gave the Times the Pentagon Papers. Rather than partisans with an agenda, as the White House has often tried to portray them, the people who approached Risen were “deeply concerned” about the legality of the domestic surveillance program. “Some of the people who talked to us had a tortured look,” he added, and they were “not enthusiastic to leak.”

“Had there been no Pentagon Papers case,” Siegal added later, “we might not have done the NSA story.” Abrams and Risen later noted, however, that the New York Times decision may not provide as much comfort for journalists working today as they might hope…. [Risen said] that “the leak investigation is the method of choice today” for chilling reporting, “partly because of the Pentagon Papers.”

“Up until the Bush administration, there was virtually no threat that a reporter would be subpoenaed,” Risen said.