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Risen Makes Editors Sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement

The increasingly indispensible NY Observer Off the Record reports this week that James Risen required his NYT editors to sign a non-disclosure agreement before they could see the manuscript for his book. And they didn’t see the manuscript until after they decided to run the wiretap story.

When they decided to send the long-gestating N.S.A. piece to press in December, Timeseditors couldn’t confirm whether Mr. Risen’s manuscript contained thewiretapping story or not. In the end, they didn’t see the book until aweek before it was in bookstores.Through several months in late 2005, Mr. Risen and bureau chief Phil Taubman had clashed over whether Timeseditors would get a preview of the book’s closely guarded contents,sources said. It was not until Dec. 27—11 days after the wiretappingstory had run—that Mr. Risen relented and allowed Mr. Taubman to seethe manuscript. Mr. Risen insisted that senior editors who viewed thepre-publication copy sign nondisclosure agreements and agree not todiscuss the book’s contents.

This news adds an intriguing wrinkle to speculation surrounding the publication of the NYT scoop. Was Risen withholding his manuscript in order to force the NYT into publishing the story? Did he violate NYT’s ethical guidelines in order to ensure the stories he tells in State of War got to print?

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