During her New York Times tenure, Jill Abramson was summoned to a secret meeting with George Bush’s then-Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice.
In an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Abramson recounted being asked by Rice to not publish a story by reporter James Risen about a botched CIA mission to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. Rice asked Abramson to come to the meeting without Risen.
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“She barely looked up,” Abramson told CBS’ Leslie Stahl. “She basically read in a very stern manner from her notes on this legal pad, which were just point after point about why this story would be damaging to the national security.”
“I felt a bit surreal. Her bottom line … was to make sure that Jim cease all reporting on this story, which was really an extraordinary request.”
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Abramson, who was fired from NYT in May, said she was ultimately swayed not to run the story at that time and recommended against it to the paper of record. “It seemed, in the calculus of all of the major stories we were dealing with at that point, not worth it to me and I regret that decision now. I regret that I did not back a great reporter, Jim Risen, who I’ve worked with and who then worked for me and whose work I knew was solid as a rock.”
The Risen story the Times punted on publishing ended up in his 2006 book, “State of War,” years after the meeting between Rice and Abramson. Risen is currently facing prison time for refusing to name sources for parts of his book that detail the Iran mission as well as secret CIA surveillance on U.S. citizens. Prosecutors allege Risen’s source was Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA official, and emphasize Risen’s confirmation is imperative for a conviction.
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In June, the Supreme Court rejected Risen’s appeal against testifying.