How Journalists Compensate When Their Sources Are Too Afraid

By Ray McGovern
On Wednesday, August 7, 2019, Dr. Wilmer Leon, host of “The Critical Hour” chose an Intercept article of August 4, 2019 by Micah Lee titled The Metadata Trap: The Trump Administration Is Using the Full Power of the U.S. Surveillance State Against Whistleblowers” for a discussion with Chris Garaffa, a web developer and technologist, and Ray. ( For Lee’s Intercept article, see: .)

The link to Dr. Leon’s hour is: , and the interview of Chris and Ray runs from minute 38:05 to 55:30.

Those who read through Micah Lee’s article are left with the distinct impression that, unless you have the extraordinary devotion to the Constitution and are ready for the worst to happen to you (two uncommon traits displayed in action by Edward Snowden), well FAGETTABOUTIT.  You will face insuperable odds; they will catch you for sure. Snowden’s rare escape from the clutches of the Deep State is the only exception to this rule.  Think about where WikiLeaks Julian Assange ended up; and Chelsea Manning is again behind bars. 


In fairness, this may not have been Lee’s intent, and what he describes seems close to the new reality.  But he offers little hope that, with all the tools available to government, a whistleblower stands much chance of blowing the whistle and remaining undetected.

Here’s how Dr. Leon set up the conversation:

A recent Intercept article reads, “Government whistleblowers are increasingly being charged under laws such as the Espionage Act, but they aren’t spies. They’re ordinary Americans, and, like most of us, they carry smartphones that automatically get backed up to the cloud. When they want to talk to someone, they send them a text or call them on the phone. They use Gmail and share memes and talk politics on Facebook. Sometimes they even log in to these accounts from their work computers.”

Why does this matter, and how should journalists react?

Not Risen to the Challenge

Well, we know how former investigative journalist James Risen has chosen to react.  This was fresh in Ray’s mind since, in an interview Monday on The Hill’s “Rising,” apropos of nothing, Risen decided to call former NSA Technical Director Bill Binney a “conspiracy theorist” on Russia-gate, with no demurral, much less challenge, from the hosts. (See: at minute 2:35.)

Since having-done-good-work-in-the-past-and-now-not-so-much Risen can be considered a paradigm for what has happened to so many Kool-Aid drinking journalists and , Ray plans to write soon about Jim’s transition from investigative journalist to stenographer.  Contributing causes?  Micah Lee’s article makes it abundantly clear that the traditional sources within the intelligence agencies, whom Risen was able to cultivate discreetly in the past, are too fearful now to even talk to him.  Those at the top of the relevant agencies, however, are only to happy to provide grist.  And Topic A, of course, is Russian “interference” in the 2016 election.  And, of course, “There can be little doubt” the Russians did it.

“Big Jim” Risen, as he is known, jumped on the bandwagon as soon as he joined The Intercept, with a fulsome article on February 17, 2018 titled “Is Donald Trump a Traitor?” (See: .) A couple of excerpts might provide some taste for Jim’s metamorphosis trimming his sails to the prevailing winds.  As seen below, Jim shows himself just as susceptible as virtually all of his fellow “journalists” to the epidemic-scale HWHW virus (for Hillary Would Have Won):

“This, my first column for The Intercept, will focus on … the evidence that Russia intervened in the election to help Trump win. It is already compelling, and it grows stronger by the day.

“There can be little doubt now that Russian intelligence officials were behind an effort to hack the DNC’s computers and steal emails and other information from aides to Hillary Clinton as a means of damaging her presidential campaign. …

“To their disgrace, editors and reporters at American news organizations greatly enhanced the Russian echo chamber, eagerly writing stories about Clinton and the Democratic Party based on the emails, while showing almost no interest during the presidential campaign in exactly how those emails came to be disclosed and distributed. The Intercept itself has faced such accusations. The hack was a much more important story than the content of the emails themselves, but that story was largely ignored.”

You got that exactly backwards, Jim.  Where you been?  The “mainstream media” echo chamber worked very effectively to divert attention from the highly embarrassing content of the emails (showing the dirty tricks used to sabotage Bernie Sanders).  The echo chamber music was all about Why did those dastardly Russians hack into the DNC, with John McCain calling the alleged “hack” “an act of war.”  Don’t you remember?

Good Advice From Another “Big Jim”

Here’s how Huckleberry Finn’s black friend, Big Jim, answers Huck’s question about accommodating to the conventional wisdom — in this case on slavery: ”Just because … everybody believes it’s right, that don’t make it right.”