The CIA, FBI, Mafia, and the Kennedys: A Discussion with a Pulitzer Winner and Journalist about One Senator’s Fight to Save Democracy

Watch our webinar featuring journalist Thomas Risen and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter James Risen, co-authors of “The Last Honest Man: The CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, and the Kennedys―and One Senator’s Fight to Save Democracy.” Together, we explored Senator Frank Church’s courageous stand against abuses of power by the CIA, FBI, Mafia, and the Kennedys.

For decades now, America’s national security state has grown ever bigger, ever more secretive and powerful, and ever more abusive. Only once did someone manage to put a stop to any of it. Senator Frank Church of Idaho was an unlikely hero. He led congressional opposition to the Vietnam War and had become a scathing, radical critic of what he saw as American imperialism around the world. But he was still politically ambitious, privately yearning for acceptance from the foreign policy establishment that he hated and eager to run for president. Despite his flaws, Church would show historic strength in his greatest moment, when in the wake of Watergate he was suddenly tasked with investigating abuses of power in the intelligence community. The dark truths that Church exposed—from assassination plots by the CIA, to links between the Kennedy dynasty and the mafia, to the surveillance of civil rights activists by the NSA and FBI—would shake the nation to its core, and forever change the way that Americans thought about not only their government but also their ability to hold it accountable.

Drawing upon hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of recently declassified documents, and reams of unpublished letters, notes, and memoirs, some of which remain sensitive today, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter James Risen tells the gripping, untold story of truth and integrity standing against unchecked power—and winning—in The Last Honest Man.

About the Authors


Thomas Risen, Journalist

Thomas Risen is a journalist who has reported on U.S. politics, national security, the intelligence community, digital surveillance and the War on Terror. His first book as a co-author is “The Last Honest Man: The CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, the Kennedys—and One Senator’s Fight to Save Democracy.” He contributed research and interviews for the books “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” and for “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War.”


James Risen

James Risen, Journalist, Senior National Security Correspondent·The Intercept

Jim Risen, a best-selling author and former New York Times reporter is The Intercept’s Senior National Security Correspondent, based in Washington, D.C. Risen also serves as director of First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund, which is dedicated to supporting news organizations, journalists, and whistleblowers in legal fights in which a substantial public interest, freedom of the press, or related human or civil right is at stake. 

Risen was himself a target of the U.S. government’s crackdown on journalists and whistleblowers. He waged a seven-year battle, risking jail, after the Bush administration and later the Obama administration sought to force him to testify and reveal his confidential sources in a leak investigation. Risen never gave in, and the government finally backed down. 

As a New York Times reporter, Risen won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his stories about the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program, and he was a member of the reporting team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for coverage of the September 11 attacks and terrorism. 

Risen began his career as a reporter at the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, and later worked at the Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press, and the Los Angeles Times. He joined the New York Times in 1998, where he remained until the summer of 2017.  He is the author of four books: “Wrath of Angels: The American Abortion War”; “The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Final Showdown With the KGB”; “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration”; and “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War.”