BRIAN LAMB: Scott Shane, back in January, actually it was January 6 you said something unusual something on the front page of the New York Times were you lead the paper with not per se a new story but something you'd been working on for a long time. Would you start to fill us in on what this was about?
SCOTT SHANE: This was a very unusual story from several points of view. And one that the New York Times allowed me to write it in the first person which was actually the only way I would be able to write it because I was involved in the story, and normally I would have had to recluse myself, and they agreed to my pitch that there was an unusual story about journalism and how journalists cover sensitive national security topics and that this was the best way to tell it. Essentially it was the story of John Kiriakou, former CIA officer, who was a source for me and for any number of National Security reporters around Washington after he'd retired from the CIA and how through a lot of twists and turns he ended up being the first CIA officer to be in prison for leaking classified information to the press. Never happened before, he is now at the Federal Prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania.
LAMB: Part of your story starts with an interview that happened in 2007, late 2007 with Brian Ross at ABC. We have just a 30 second clip so our viewers can catch up with what John Kiriakou looks like and a sense of what he was talking about.(VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRIAKOU: And at the time I felt that water-boarding was something that we needed to do, and as time has passed and as September 11th has moved farther and farther back into history. I think I've changed my mind, and I think water boarding is probably something that we shouldn't be in the business of doing.
BRIAN ROSS: Why do you say that now?
KIRIAKOU: Because we're Americans, and we're better than that.
ROSS: But at the time you didn't feel that way.
KIRIAKOU: At the time I was so angry and I wanted so much to help disrupt future attacks in the United States that I felt it was the only thing we could do.(VIDEO ENDS)
LAMB: That was six years ago, what was the importance of that interview?
SHANE: That interview made a big splash, even though we had all written about water boarding, this technique that certainly historically has been considered to be torture. In fact one of the favorite torture techniques of despots through the ages where water is poured over the mouth and nose of somebody who is strapped to a board to give them a feeling of drowning.
We had written about how the CIA had engaged in that practice with at least three prisoners in 2002, 2003, but even by 2007 several years later no one from the CIA had actually spoken publicly about that. It was still considered to be classified, and so John Kiriakou happened to be the guy who first talked openly about water boarding on national TV and it made quite a splash.
Those of us in the National Security reporting business, I think I can speak for all of us, immediately rushed to call this guy because here was a former CIA officer talking openly about something that was pretty sensitive. So I called and talked to him, and among other things I wanted to establish who is he, how does he know this kind of thing. And one of the things that gave me a little bit of pause was that he acknowledged to me he hadn't witnessed the water boarding. And that his information was second hand, but he came across as a very nice guy, very candid, and I got to know him a little bit, we'd have lunch from time to time. And I think in that respect I was not unusual there were a bunch of other reporters talking to him.
LAMB: How old a guy is he now?
SHANE: He's in his late 40s now. He worked, he's from sort of steel country of Pennsylvania. His grandparents emigrated from Greece, speaks fluent Greek, which was an advantage for him at work as it turned out. And he went to work, he went to George Washington University here in town. He was recruited by one of his professors who suggested that he might want to apply for the CIA. He worked first as analyst and then moved over the great divide of the CIA between analysts and operators, as they call them the clandestine authors. And he moved over to the clandestine side and worked against terrorism in Greece, out of Athens and then after 9-11 in Pakistan. And was perhaps most well known for having helped captured the first of the guys considered at least at the time to be an important terrorist guy named Abu Zubaydah who was caught in Pakistan and this guy John Kiriakou helped run that operation. He left the CIA in 2004, so by 2007 when he gave that interview he'd been gone for three years.
Brain Lamb: I remember the time when somebody wouldn't even acknowledge they ever worked for the CIA.
Yes, it's funny. Something that's happened and I think it's changing the nature of the relationship between government and journalism and it's still very much unresolved, Kiriakou's case being a very good example, is post 9-11 a whole lot more people cared about National Security issues, then was the case before. So all of a sudden there was a market for former CIA folks, former Defense Intelligence Agency, and even former National Security Agency the biggest eavesdropping agency. All those guys who are used to operating in the shadows saw a market for their services for commentators, for book writers, so there was this somewhat unformidable interaction between the agencies and these usually former employees who were coming out of the shadows and writing about what they had done in their lives. And there's been many lawsuits and many tussles over that since.
LAMB: I know we've got a lot to discuss about John Kiriakou and the whole process. Why is he in prison?
SHANE: He, as I said, got to know a number of reporters and would be helpful within limits. Sometimes he would say you know that's classified, I'm not going to talk about that, but relative to many CIA officers he was pretty candid about things. And you know as a reporter in this area you treasure anyone you find who is willing to talk about things. I think he saw it, as a lot of people saw it, as a legitimate thing. We're a country where the government doesn't get the last word on what the people learn about. That tends to be a system, I spend some time in the Soviet Union, and that tends to be a system that doesn't work very well. And so it's always and uneasy process but I think his view was the public deserved to know what the CIA had done to prisoners in these so called black sites, these secret jails the CIA ran for years after 9-11. So he began to talk to a number of us. There were referrals from the CIA to the Justice Department. A referral, a leak referral, is a form that an agency fills out when people at the agency feel classified information has been made public. And it's fairly routine, it doesn't always result certainly in a criminal investigation or criminal prosecution. But it's essentially a form that heads up the Justice Department, you know, and in fact one was sent after that Brian Ross interview on ABC with John Kiriakou. It was still technically speaking even though it had been widely written about, classified that water boarding had gone on and so here was a guy who had signed a non-disclosure agreement talking on TV about it so a referral went over to the Justice Department. Which is essentially, you know take a look at this and see, if it needs to be investigated criminally. He gave a number of other interviews after that, resulted in referrals. As far as I can tell from my reporting, none of those really went anywhere. But finally what got him in trouble came from sort of a different angle that didn't initially involve him. Folks at Guantanamo, at the prison in Cuba, discovered photographs and sort of bios of some undercover CIA officers who including interrogators, at Guantanamo in some of the cells. And this set off great alarm bells because the immediate reaction was "Oh my God," you know the Al Qaeda guys are some how targeting the people who interrogated them, the people who caught them from the CIA and this could be very dangerous. As it turned out it was not quite as alarming as that essentially the defense attorney's' had sought to identify the interrogators and the other folks who had been at these black sites so they could call them as witnesses, ultimately in these military trials that they're having down there. So, a criminal investigation for that episode was started, and at some point they started look at Kiriakou and got his e-mails, I believe with a search warrant and started looking at his e-mails, and went all through his e-mails and discovered what they considered to be several occasions where he had discussed, or exchanged information about classified subjects with reporters. I was one of those reporters. That is why I had to write about him in the first person, and why it was a somewhat unusual situation. In the end he was indicted in January 2012 on a bunch of counts. Some of which involved me. I was not identified by name but I was identified as Journalist B and it was obvious it was me because they listed one of the articles I had written that quoted John Kiriakou. In the end, he, after a long and very expensive legal battle he decided he didn't' want to roll the dice and go to prison for 10 or 15 years, which it seemed like it was at least a possibility. He has three young children and he just didn't want to be gone from their lives. So he agreed to plead guilty to one count involving a different writer, a guy who was a freelance journalist to whom Kiriakou had give the name of someone who was still operating undercover, a CIA officer. And he was sentenced as part of a plea bargain to 30 months in prison and he's serving it now.
LAMB: How long do you think he'll serve?
SHANE: You know the Federal system you serve most of the time you, that you are sentenced to. Sometimes there are special programs that you can get into that speed it up a bit, but I think he was expecting to serve certainly at least 20 or 25 months. I mean a couple years.
LAMB: Went in prison, what day? Do you remember?
SHANE: He went to prison in February, mid February. They gave him a little time to get his stuff together essentially and say good bye to his family.
LAMB: Have you talked to him?
SHANE: You know I have written to him, but I have not managed to talk to him. There's kind of an elaborate process to reach folks, and the Bureau of Prisons is, in my experience, is very averse to journalists getting to prisoners and particularly in controversial situations. So I had done, about a year ago, a long piece terrorist in Federal prison and I had corresponded with a bunch of them. But when I tried to visit them I was completely shut down at several people, several prisons, seemed to be pretty much a ban.
LAMB: Here's another minute clip of John Kiriakou talking to Amnesty International panel discussion back in October 2008, again just to get a flavor.(BEGIN VIDEO)
KIRIAKOU: I think water boarding is torture and I think we should not be using it now seven years after September 11. But in the immediate aftermath of September 11, Osama Bin Laden said two things and I think we rightly concluded that we should take the man at his word. He said that Al Qaeda was planning an attack that would dwarf September 11 and it was just a matter of time before it was implemented. He also said that Al Qaeda would not stop attacking American's and American interests until the green flag of Islam flew over the White House. So we had to take him at his word. With that in mind and with the immediacy of trying to disrupt that massive attack that was coming along with the guilt that we all had that we couldn't do anything to stop 3,000 murders the decision was made to pour water over Abu Zubaydah's face.(END VIDEO)
LAMB: Abu Zubaydah again did what?
SHANE: Abu Zabaydah at the time he was caught in March of 2002 he was described by high level Bush administration officials as the number three in Al Qaeda. Later on they backed away from that. He was actually not a sort of sworn member of Al Qaeda but he was a fairly significant character. He'd run an essential a terrorist training camp. He'd run guest house where a lot of these militants came in and out. He was probably more accurately decrypted as a facilitator, or sometimes I even heard him described as a travel agent for terrorist in Pakistan. He kind of knew everybody and he would help them move in and out, help them to forged documents, help them with a place to stay that kind of thing. So in that sense he was very valuable to the CIA because he knew a lot of people.
LAMB: Have you ever known of anybody who had died of water boarding?
SHANE: No, water boarding has, as some of us has learned in the early years when this was being discussed, a very long history. One thing that in my reporting that I found and was amazed to find was that as far as I could determine, neither high level White House officials in the Bush administration nor even the top brass at the CIA even knew the history of water boarding when the approved it. It was presented to them in a sort of different guise as a military training program. But in fact there are wood cuts, amazing wood cuts, of water boarding being used in the Spanish inquisition. And these wood cuts show it being used pretty much exactly as it was used centuries later by the CIA, which is that a cloth is placed over the mouth and nose, water is poured on, this is a person who is bound and can not remove the water, and you know the person gasps for breath inhales water, can't get the breath, it causes a panic reaction and intense fear, I'm told having tried it. And unless, if you were to keep pouring, eventually the person would drown, but generally speaking you know the situation is such that, you're trying to get the person to talk. Therefore you poor for a while and then you ask them questions, then you poor for a while and ask them questions. In some instances in an inquisition they did something a little bit different. I suppose this was in a case where it was being used as a sort death by torture as opposed to an interrogation technique, and that was they would poor water until a person had ingested so much water that their belly was swollen up, and then they would jump on the belly and that kind of thing. But this, in a torture interrogation technique it was also famously used by Pol Pot the leader of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. And in the museum they now have in the former prison of the Khmer Rouge regime in Pnom Pen, there is the water board that they used which again is not very different from what the way the CIA's water boards were described and there's a famous painting by one of the few survivors of that prison showing a torture using essentially a watering can to poor the water on the person's face. All this history was apparently unknown to the folks at the top of the American government when they were briefed on this and gave their OK.
LAMB: How much of a surprise reaction have you gotten that the Obama Administration has prosecuted more of this type of an individual than the Bush Administration or anyone else?
SHANE: You know it is quite shocking and a bit of a mystery that we've spent some time reporting on. You're talking about criminal prosecution for leaking classified information to the press, which in the, in the rare occasions that its' been pursued, has been pursued under the Espionage Act of 1917 oddly enough. Because you know certainly those of us in the Journalism business bristle when this process of talking to source even under classified matters is described as espionage because it certainly isn't that. But there's no law that's sort of tailor made for this, and it's happened so rarely in history that it's never been known in Congress as created a special statute for it. So historically the first time it was used as far as I know was in 1971 in the famous Pentagon Papers case when Daniel Ellsberg, you know a Pentagon consultant, leaked the massive secret history of the Vietnam War with a co-defendant. They were charged. And that prosecution fell apart because of prosecutional misconduct, so he avoided prison. Then there was a man name Robert Morrison who sold some classified satellite pictures to Jane's Defense publications in the 80's. Purely for money basically, so it wasn't really a leak of information to the press it was more of a commercial thing. He was prosecuted and did serve some time.
Then there was a gentleman name Larry Franklin in the Bush Administration George W. Bush administration, second Bush Administration who his crime, which he ended up pleading guilty to was slightly different. He actually shared classified information with two lobbyists for the Pro-Israel lobby AIPAC. But they were sharing it with journalists so it was a similar sort of thing, and he also pleaded guilty and served some time. You know by most people's count those are the only three cases in history before Obama came into office in 2009. Since President Obama has been in office and in his first term there were six such prosecutions. So he has, it's fair to say, by far broken the historical record in this area, and it's particularly surprising because he came in on his first day in office, pledging the most transparent Administration in history, directing Agencies to share information with the public unless there was an urgent reason not too, and that was certainly the rhetoric he'd used. So, you know, this is one of these areas where we in the journalism business have a personal stake. We can't pretend to be completely neutral by-standers because, to the degree that this interferes with gathering information. So you know it makes it difficult to do our work. But, so, also, so it's a matter of great public interest we set out to find you know, why did this happen? Did Obama get angry about leaks like so many Presidents do, no matter what they say when they come into office, and order a crack down. We were told, yes he got angry about leaks, again, like just about every President. They want to control the agenda, they want to roll things out at their own pace, they want to keep some things secret and other things not.And they find that's very difficult in this town, and he was very angry about leaks, but you know on I've been told on pretty good authority that he never did issue a crack down. And perhaps even more surprising, the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, also did not order a crack down. That what happened here appears to be the result of two things. Perhaps the most important things, e-mail and sort of the electronic records that we all sometimes unwittingly leave behind of our interactions. Each of the six cases under Obama, that have been prosecuted under Obama, involve either e-mails or some other electronic record, for example Private Bradley Manning who is being prosecuted for delivering 700,000 government documents to Wikileaks, the anti-secrecy organization. He spoke in internet chats, and those are also recorded on the Web and the authorities have those chat logs. But in all those cases, including the case of John Kiriakou, there were electronic records that allowed investigators to identify fairly readily the person who was delivering information to the reporter.
That had been very problematic in the past, and it's become much easier. I was shocked in January 2012 to look at my e-mail, I'm on the Justice Departments e-mail list, and see John Kiriakou's name in the headline of a press release. And read down into the indictment to find excerpts of my e-mails with John Kiriakou. And that's probably the biggest factor. The second factor is that Eric Holder, as Attorney General, doesn't appear to have exercised any, as they call it prosecutorial discretion in these cases. He appears to have taken the view, if the prosecutors can bring one of these lead cases, you know, go for it. In the past, at least some Attorneys General I'm told, have sometimes sort of said, you know what this is a case where no harm was done by the league of class information, where maybe there was a compelling interest in the resulting story so we're not going to prosecute. In Mr. Holder's case he appears to have appeared to have green-lighted either all or most of these prosecutions.
LAMB: I want to take a brief time out and go into your background. Saint Alban's school here in Washington, Williams College, Massachusetts 1976, Oxford University, English '78. Was that Rhodes scholarship or was that something else?
SHANE: That was a Fellowship given by Williams College, about a two year opportunity to study at Oxford.
LAMB: And then Leningrad State University in Russia, what was that?
SHANE: I had studied Russian in college. I had gotten into it first through literature and then just really found it kind of fascinating, course this was during the cold war. So they were kind of the other great enemy that you grew up hearing about. And so I just had this enormous curiosity about life in Russia and so on, so I was fortunate enough in the summer '76 to go on an engage program to go over and study in Leningrad for the summer. And it gave me a whole lot of practice in Russian and a life-long interest in the field.
LAMB: Here you are in 1991 on this network talking about your time in Russia.(VIDEO BEGINS)
SHANE: In 1976 I think what was going on was this tremendous hypocrisy. This pretense that everything was wonderful. In '76 outside our dormitory on the Nuvaght River in Leningrad across from the hermitage there was a sign that had this slogan of the then five year plan which was, "Efficiency and Quality", and the 's' in the word, in the Russian word for,
in giant plastic letters, and the 's' in the word for quality came loose and hung, a Russian 's', it looks like a 'c', hung down, it sort of barely hung on by a thread below the rest of the word it was like that when I arrived in the summer of '76 and two or three months later when I left it was still hanging there. No one had bothered to get a ladder and put it back up.(VIDEO ENDS)
LAMB: 21 years with the Baltimore Sun and since 2004 with the New York Times?
SHANE: That's right.
LAMB: How did you get into the National Security Business, writing about that?
SHANE: You know, I had written about courts, and medicine and education and various things early in my career. But my first exposure to National Security I suppose was when I was working in Russia from 1988 to 1991, because I was, covering among other things. This was under Gorbachev for a story on Glasnost and I remember covering some amazing moments in their National Security history. For example, the leader's of the KGB being summoned by the first democratically elected parliament and questioned. You know for those older timers around Washington who remember the church committee, the Senate's look into the CIA and the NSA. It was sort of a similar moment. So you know I kind of watched their, giant National Security apparatus in the Soviet Union come under scrutiny for the first time. And when I came back to the United States one of the things that I noticed. I was working at the Baltimore Sun, that the National Security Agency, the big eaves dropping agency based at Fort Meade, between Baltimore and Washington, was the largest employer in Maryland. Very few people knew that nada very few people knew what it did. They got it mixed up with the National Security Council which is part of the White House, and so I kind of though, 'wow you know I kind of know more about the KGB than I know about the NSA' and I keep bugging the editors to let me spend some time poking around on the NSA and I think at first they were a little reluctant you know because especially yin those days I think considered it a waste of time. It was extremely secret. The old joke was, that NSA stood for Never Say Anything or No Such Agency, and so eventually the editor at the Sun at the time, John Carroll you know kind of caught the bug himself, and got a little interested in and set me and another reporter, Tom Baumann loose for 18 months actually getting a lot of doors slammed in our face. But we ended up writing a six part explanatory series on basically what the NSA does, what it did, and where it came from, what kinds issues its work raise, and those sorts of things. One of the gratifying things about that was, we did a reprint of that series and sold thousand and thousands to residents of Counties around Fort Meade because mostly these were family members of people who worked at NSA. And their father or their brother or their son would come home everyday and not say anything about what they were doing. And so there was this incredible curiously about the place. And we set up to satisfy it.
LAMB: By the way, can you get that on the Web today? I mean if someone wants to read that series?
SHANE: You know. I think you still can find it. It's sort of littered with ads but I think you can if you Google, Scott Shane and National Security and Baltimore Sun, I think you can actually still find it. You can certainly still find it in the old Nexus database and that sort of thing. But that kind of certainly gave me an exposure and interest in the area. Then like many, many reporters after 9/11 you know it seemed for a while everybody was working on National Security, and I kind of stuck with it, wrote a lot the Anthrax letters case that people will remember for late 2001, which of course went on for years and years. And then after coming to the Times in 2004 I wrote a great deal, sort of about the CIA, and the Bush Interrogation Detention counter terrorism programs. Under Obama an awful lot about targeted killing drone strikes and that sort of thing.
LAMB: John Kiriakou's story after you wrote about it and Brian Ross, and all the interviews. It seems that some of the news organizations have picked up on it, and have just covered it and covered it and covered it are like Russia today. Russia today which has an anti-American bias if you watch it, and I want to show they did actually party that was held before John Kiriakou went to prison. And I, I don't know if you've seen any of this stuff, but I want to run a little bit and have you comment on the excitement, and also the Code pink folks were there that night.
Female Anchor: And today, he will check into the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania to start his 30 month sentence. RT was at his send off party, we bring that to you now, along with his appearances at RT.(singing)
KIRIAKOU: In December 2007 I said on ABC News that the CIA was torturing prisoners and that torture was the official U.S. Government policy that went all the way up the President. The next day the President said, and I still smile when I think about this. The President said, "I don't know this man. I don't know this man's motivation. I don't know why this man would throw me under the bus." But I did, I threw the President under the bus.(VIDEO ENDS)
LAMB: You know, why would they, why would Russia today spend so much time on this story.
SHANE: Well, it's, you know I'm hardly in position to criticize anyone else on spending a lot of time on this story. One, I've spent a lot of time on this story. I wrote a huge story on John Kiriakou, as you pointed out, but I think both in the Soviet era and certainly now in Putin era. You know Russians and certainly Russian officials get tired of being criticized by the Untied States on human rights grounds. And so when the United States is sending a CIA officer, a former CIA officer off to prison, certainly in the view of his mind and in the mind of many of his supporters for, among other things speaking out on water boarding on torture. You know that has a certain appeal. You know it's a little bit of the Russian's I think saying, aren't you guys kind of being hypocritical when you point at some the human rights cases in Russian under Putin.
LAMB: John Kiriakou in the story you quote him saying he didn't see Abu Zubaydah being water tortured, and then you go on to point out that he was water tortured 83 times.
SHANE: You know, one of the many supersedes along the rode was that while John Kiriakou's spoke with great authority on ABC in 2007 on what had happened to Abu Zubaydah during the water boarding. It turns out he was completely wrong. He said after 30 seconds or 35 seconds he said of this water boarding treatment that Abu Zubaydah had broken as they say and then had just spoken about everything, openly. And that while he had come to believe it was torture and we were American's and we were better than that and we shouldn't be doing that. He also suggested it was extremely effective. He says that he believed that at the time. And I actually think that's right. He had moved out of the program, a very compartmented program as the say at the CIA where people learn about things only on a need to know basis. So he know longer needed to know about what was going on in that secret program. He claims that in both cables and from conversations with colleagues at CIA, he had learned that the water boarding had worked like a charm, that after 35 seconds Abu Zubaydah had started talking. And there's a wrinkle that we'll get to on that we'll get to on that. But as it turned out, sometime later when an Inspector General report 2009, a CIA Inspector General report on this program came to light. It mentioned Abu Zubaydah was actually water boarded 83 times. And Kalid Sheik Muhammed , the main planner of 9/11 had been water boarding 183 times. So it became clear that far from working in this almost magical way turning an renown terrorist into a fount of you know information, water boarding had not actually cause Abu Zabaydah to talk after 35 seconds.
In fact there is some question in retrospect as we have learned more and more about whether or not it produced any information of value from Abu Zabaydah. And so the question arose, why did John Kiriakou say this? Was this, some people even suspected maybe he had been put up to this by the CIA, and this was sort of disinformation propaganda about the water boarding. I'm sure that at this point that's not true. I sure that what he actually said what he believed, what he'd been told. Now what the wrinkle that's come up more recently that we still don't understand fully. The Senate, the Senate Intelligence Committee has spent four years looking at this same program. And they have a 6,000 page report that remains classified at this point, even the summary is something like 325 pages. We only know the basic bottom line findings because a few Senators have talked about them. We don't know the details. But one of the things that was said is that there was a lot of disinformation about this interrogation program inside the CIA. And between the CIA and the White House, and there's been a suggestion that some folk at the CIA were presenting this as far more effective than it was, even inside the place, into the White House., so that maybe John Kiriakou was hearing a sort of laundered version of the true story in 2007 when he made those statements on TV.
LAMB: The main reason that we asked you to talk about this, was the fact, and this was back in January, this was an unusual place to find a story in the New York Times on a Sunday, what went into the decision, and you say in the story you go permission from John Kiriakou to reveal the source thing. Did you have that in writing?
SHANE: You know there was a kind of long legal history because at one point, what you fear in a leak investigation as a reporter is that you'll be subpoenaed by the government to say, to come into court and say, 'this person was my confidential source'. Something you often don't want to do and in this case reporters say they would prefer to go to prison rather than reveal the name of a confidential source because those promises of confidentiality are sort of the key to whole business, this kind of recording. In this instance, the prosecutors made clear pretty early on that they were not going to subpoena me or the other reporters that John Kiriakou had talked to. As it's partly, as I mentioned, they had these e-mails, between reporters and Kiriakou. And what did happen and this was extremely unexpected was that John Kiriakou subpoenaed some of us, including me. And this was sort of an unusual situation because you know why would the source want you to come and talk about your dealings with him. And I didn't like the idea of going into court and talking about a confidential source even with the permission of the source or at the instigation of the source. So we objected to that, and it was pushed back and kind of eventually they decided not to do it. But in that process John Kiriakou did give me in writing a sort of waiver that said, you know I authorize Scott Shane to talk about our previously confidential exchanges. So what happened actually, I suppose I can talk about this it's sort of interesting story as just kind of a human interest story. After he was indicted in January 2012 my first instinct was to call the guy and say look I'm sorry, because I felt partly responsible. Certainly I had absolutely no intention of seeing this guy criminally charged. I was shocked that he was charged with particularly in the area that he, in the area of our exchanges. I thought it was completely unjustified and do to this day, and, however it's obviously a very sensitive thing we had to cover the indictment. We had to write about that. Another reporter took on the job of writing about it because I was involved. And our lawyers at the New York Times told me that I should not talk to Kiriakou. And that kind of made sense, I'd gotten him into enough trouble to begin with, so I was sort of banned from talking to him for quite a while. Until finally, I think it was in October, he pleaded guiltily. Which after the quietly plea, which I also didn't' cover, because again I was conflicted. I had this conflict interest. I asked my lawyers, hey can I get in touch with this guy now and just kind of have, you know, a personal conversation with him? And they said sure.So I sent him an e-mail basically said, you know an e-mail, what was I thinking. And said,
LAMB: And by the way, did you suspect the NSA would be reading that e-mail?
SHANE: It wouldn't be the NSA I don't think, but it certainly is conceivable that they were continuing to monitor his e-mail though it would be the FBI, I would think but as part of this on-going investigation I wasn't talking about anything classified. I say hey, I felt terrible when you got indicted, I was allowed to talk to you. You may never want to talk to me again or hear my name again. In which case I totally understand but if you're willing I'd love to buy you lunch. And he responded very graciously and we had lunch. And he told me a little bit more in a little bit more detail about he kind of hat it was like to be prosecuted, some of the stories about when he first became aware that perhaps he was under scrutiny, what the thought about it and so on. And I thought, wow, you know there's a great story here. And I actually, initially, went to the editors, I wrote a long memo. First the editors said forget about it, said I'd have to write this in first person. I said forget about it. And I wrote a long memo and they thought again, and decided I could do it. But initially it was scheduled to run in the New York Times magazine. We heard that the New Yorker was planning a long story on John Kiriakou, and the lead time with a magazine of course is a lot longer than for a newspaper.So in the end to my great relief the editors agreed to just sort of crash it into the papers, as we say, on short notice and put it into the Sunday paper. So that we could beat out the New Yorker. You know one of these silly journalistic competitions that goes on. The New Yorker, Steve Calver, actually has written a very long article that's run since then. But that's basically how I came to write about this in the paper.
LAMB: You know there were pictures that you had in the article with John Kiriakou with his daughter, and his children. Why would he want his kids seen in public?
SHANE: Well, I don't think he has huge fear from terrorist and that kind of thing. He
actually, he was one of these people. I mentioned that got out of the CIA and wrote a book, it's called the Reluctant Spy, and it's a fun read. It's a pretty interesting and sometimes, and somewhat, hair raising account of his work for the CIA. Like most former CIA officers that have wrote a book he fought a bit of a battle with what they call the publication review board over their, I believe it's true that when he first submitted his book manuscript he's obliged to show it to them because he's sort of signed these non disclosure statements. So they can look for classified information, and I believe the first message he got back from them was everything's classified in this book. And so there was a long fight that went on as often happens and he took out some things and eventually the book was published. He was weary both when he spoke on television in '07 when the book came out a couple years later. You know, I know he had some concerns about would terrorists go after him. Nothing in the end, thank God, happened. That's generally been the case. These folks who come out and speak publicly, Al Qaeda and its ilks seem to like to kill large numbers of Americans randomly rather than sort of hunting down individuals kind of in a vendetta. But when he was talking to me later, and he knew he was going to prison, I think he probably wanted sympathy, understanding, for the somewhat momentous punishment that his country, his government was handing him. And whatever you make of his case, and I know people who know his case well who think, yes they need to crack down on leaks. He's a good sort of poster boy, this'll send a message people will be more discrete in talking to reporters. And I certainly know lots of people in my profession who feel the opposite of that, that they leak prosecutions are over-kill there kind of misguided and they pose a bit of danger to the press, but in any case this is a guy who by all accounts meant well, served his country well, by most accounts for 15 years in some very dangerous situations. He risked his life to take on Al Qaeda and Pakistan. And to take on terrorism working out of Athens before that, and he's going off to prison for 30 months leaving his young family behind.
LAMB: After your article was published in January on the Web, a lot of comments came in and I want to read one from a woman named Katherine Fitzpatrick and just get your reaction.
The entire time I was reading the article about Kiriakou I kept thinking the reason Scott Shane thinks he should not have been punished so severely is simply because he's his source - meaning Kiriakou. That's all, he's simply proprietary and myopic. You're being accused of being myopic. And the other thing I thought, he and his editors feel guilty and so they are taking a lot of space with a lot of visibility to try to talk themselves away from that prick of conscience they none the less feel. And let's say this mission not accomplished. And in fact, Shane is channeling that he had a lot of progressives at the Times about the CIA and how it should be reformed or dismantled or defanged or something. It simply fits their views, and I could go on, but you get the gist of it.
SHANE: Yes. You know that's a well put version of an argument that I certainly heard a lot. You know after that article was published and in other Times as well, I, you know, in that article as someone who reads it carefully will see. I don't hide my conflict of interest. I have an interest in getting government officials to talk to me about National Security affairs. You know that's my bread and butter, that's how I make my living. I guess the second argument, and a more important argument in a way is this, not that is this good for me, of course this is good for me. Is it good for the country, for the government. Thinking about this was actually shaped by my years in Russia. When I came back from Russia I wasn't really ready to give up the experience I guess and spent a while writing a book about the Soviet collapse, and essentially the thesis was that it was Gorbachev's decision to ease up on information controls that actually toppled the system. The Soviet system just could not withstand the free flow of information about the Soviet past, about living standards in the West, and all sorts of things. And when I was living there and writing that book I got a really good look at a society where the government has the last word on what's public and what's secret. And in that kind of a country, and this was absolutely true in the Soviet Union. Every editor had a giant, sort of, note book of directives that said what you could and couldn't publish. And every part of the bureaucracy put something into that book to cover up its own mistakes. So the fisheries ministry, this is one I happen to remember, said that you couldn't write about if you were a Soviet newspaper, certain practices that they had including dumping huge amounts of fish into the ocean. And you, incredible wasteful practices that they engaged in and so this ministry put it in there that it was censored. You know it doesn't' take a genius to realize that a society like than and a government like that is not going to be terribly efficient. If you cut off all the feed back that you can get from the public about how you're doing, you know you're not going to do very well. And so, you know I was acutely aware when I started writing about the secret world in the United States, the secret government in the United States, of this problem. I recognize, absolutely recognize that there's some things that the government does that has to be secret at least for a time. I, you know, I mention the National Security Agency. Historically the National Security Agency one of its big jobs is breaking codes, if the, let's say, let's pick on Iran. If NSA is now reading all of Iran's most secret communications traffic because they've broken the Iranian codes that's obviously a huge American wind fall for the American government. Helps us in a lot of ways. If I write that the NSA is reading the Iranian codes, then Iran can fairly easily switch codes, switch machines and take away that wind fall of intelligence. That's an important secret that needs to be preserved, again at least for a time, so I recognize that. If we have a agent who had infiltrate Al Qaeda say, in Pakistan, this actually happened in Yemen, there was an agent working for Saudi, British and American intelligence who infiltrated the Al Qaeda branch in Yemen. If we identify that person when he's in an Al Qaeda camp there, you know, he's dead. He's a dead man. We lose that source and certainly as a human matter you wouldn't want to do that. So there are secrets that deserve to be preserved. But the other problem with that is bureaucrats love secrecy.
Outside, even beyond the National Security realm, but especially in the National Security realm why is that? Well, if I can control a certain amount of information and it's secret from everyone else it enhances my power, if I screw up and I can keep that secret that preserves my reputation, my career. So there's always huge sort of urge for secrecy in the government. Sometimes that's justified and sometimes not justified. I think you can fairly ask why is it so secret that we, you know why are some of the details still so classified about what we did to Al Qaeda prisoners in the secret CIA jails in 2002, 2003, 2004. Years have passed, all those prisoners are back at Guantanamo. We know a great deal about this stuff and yet the Senate's report, 6,000 page report on this program, still completely classified unclear if any of it will be declassified.
So you know from my point of view as a reporter if there's a proper balance between secrecy and openness I would move that line far, far beyond where it is today towards openness, towards open government. But certainly I think it's legitimate to have a debate about that and I happen to disagree with the person who didn't like that article.
LAMB: Have you noticed any change in the attitude of people who work in government, in the CIA, former CIA agents, in their interest in talking to you now that John Kiriakou is in prison?
SHANE: Yes, and I think most of my colleagues who have covered National Security would say there's definitely an impact. It's not just Kiriakou, it's six cases as I mentioned. You know this I don't think was by any plan but there's one guy who was working for the State Department, one guy was working for the FBI, one guy who was in the military, one guy was working for NSA. So it's like all the agencies now have one case of somebody being prosecuted. And if the goal is, as some folks in the government, say it is to deter others from talking to the press, I think it's working to some degree. I think there really is a chilling affect, and I don't blame people frankly. The line between what's classified and what's unclassified has always been some what blurred. But these cases have made it even more blurred, so a lot of people and these would be Congressional staffers, members of Congress, current intelligence officers and officials, former intelligence officers and intelligence officials cause the obligation to protect classified information you know is a life time obligation that goes on until you die. All of those people, many of them look at this possibility, that they could say something that could be considered to be classified that they could find themselves talking to the FBI and you know in a worst case scenario find themselves going off to prison. And they balance that with helping Scott Shane with the story and it's not hard for them to say, you know I really don't want to talk about that. That's always happened in this area. There's some people who just feel more comfortable not talking about anything sensitive, but it's happening a lot more often today than it did some years ago I'd say.
LAMB: We've been talking about an article that Scott Shane wrote in the January 6 addition, 2013 of the New York Times. You can find it on-line and read the whole article and we are out of time. Scott Shane, thank you so much for joining us.
SHANE: My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me Brian.END