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James Risen speaking with MSNBC's Steve Kornacki on Sunday. (Image: Screengrab)

Journalist Risen: 'Mercenary Class' Now Permanent Fixture in National Security State

James Risen says American public must question machine that 'feeds off' never-ending war

Andrea Germanos

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist James Risen said Sunday that the secretive and multi-billion dollar war on terror has sparked an entire "mercenary class that feeds off unending war."

Risen, who could face prison time for refusing to reveal a source, made the remarks on MSNBC's Up With Steve Kornacki.

"Basically, the entire war on terror has been conducted in secret, and no one in the United States is allowed to know the full extent of what we've been doing for 13 years," Risen said.

That was the motivation for his new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, he said, to show "that the government has used secrecy in order to allow for ... really a whole string of abuses and bizarre and unintended consequences to develop. And it shows that really, in my opinion, that secrecy only leads to abuse by the government and that we have to have a more open discussion of the war on terror and really have a more skeptical eye to it if we're going to continue to do this."

There's essentially been "a national security crisis, kind of like the banking crisis, where we've deregulated a large enterprise and poured hundreds of billions of dollars into it at the same time, and we've done it in secret."

"The government has stamped 'top secret' on virtually everything," he said.

But some have seen this national security crisis as a financial opportunity, Risen said.

A "whole class of people began to realize that if you want to make money in the pst-9/11 world, you came to Washington, you called yourself a counter-terrorism expert and you began to claim that you knew how to find Osama bin Laden or you knew how to stop al Qaeda."

"We've had this dramatic increase in a whole mercenary class that is now becoming a permanent part of a national security state," he said.

This is something that should prompt careful reflection by the American people, he said. They should ask themselves if what they really want is a "mercenary class that feeds off unending war and makes sure that the United States never stops finding new threats to go after."

Risen added that President "Obama's record on press freedom speaks for itself," referencing the administration's targeting of whistleblowers. He also called Obama "the greatest enemy of press freedom we've had in a generation."


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