The FBI tried to ambush and arrest my source

I’ve been personally threatened with jail time for refusing to reveal my confidential sources under Democratic administrations as well as Republican.

My name is Jim Risen, and I’m the senior national security correspondent at The Intercept.

I’ve spent my career reporting on the U.S. national security state and uncovering some of their dirtiest secrets and lies. In that time, I’ve been targeted by the FBI. I’ve been spied on. I’ve even been threatened with jail time for refusing to reveal my confidential sources.

And all of that happened under Democratic administrations, not just Republicans.

In fact, I’ve recently uncovered new information about a 2014 FBI scheme — signed off by the Obama Justice Department — to arrest one of my sources by using an informant to ambush one of my meetings. (More on that below.)

When Donald Trump left office, some people expected the dawn of a new age of press freedom. At The Intercept, we know better than to trust that a Democratic president will respect the freedom of the press — but the post-Trump slump in news traffic has left a hole in our budget that we’re still working to fill.

That’s why I’m writing today to ask you become a member of The Intercept. Your donation will make sure our investigative journalists have the security, legal, and other resources they need to tackle challenging stories that others won’t.

We all remember how Trump attacked journalists as the enemy of the people. But the Obama-Biden administration also aggressively cracked down on whistleblowers and journalists.

I should know, because I was one of their targets.

Recordings of conversations I’ve obtained show how, in 2014, the FBI worked with an attorney-turned-informant to try to prevent me from obtaining documents that they feared could expose new details about U.S. government spying. They also hoped to arrest one of my sources, who they secretly called the second Snowden.

Their plan was to use a scheduled meeting in Bruges, Belgium, to catch my source. Thanks to a tipoff, I didn’t attend the meeting, and they were unable to trap my source. But I also didn’t get any documents. We’ll never know what secrets those documents contained that had the FBI so worried that they would surveil a journalist and try to ambush a meeting outside the country.

All this was happening as I was waging a multiyear legal campaign against the Obama administration, which was threatening me with jail time in an effort to get me to reveal the identity of another source.

Bottom line: We must remain as prepared as ever to support our journalists no matter what threats or intimidation they face from the government. But the drop-off in monthly donations we saw following Joe Biden’s swearing-in has left a hole in our budget that we are still working to fill.

So I’m asking: Will you donate today to ensure that The Intercept has the legal and technological resources we need to keep uncovering secrets and publishing the bold, investigative journalism you expect from us?


Thank you,

James Risen
Senior National Security Correspondent

First Look Institute is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (tax ID number 80-0951255).

The Intercept’s mailing address is:
First Look Institute
P.O. Box 27442
Washington, DC 20038

The Intercept is an award-winning nonprofit news organization dedicated to holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism. Our in-depth investigations and unflinching analysis focus on surveillance, war, corruption, the environment, technology, criminal justice, the media and more. Email is an important way for us to communicate with The Intercept’s readers, but if you’d like to stop hearing from us, click here to unsubscribe from all communications. Protecting freedom of the press has never been more important. Contribute now to support our independent journalism.

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