Montgomery v. Risen

April 3, 2017

Defendant-Appellee James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, And Endless War, a political critique about the United States government’s response to the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. Plaintiff-Appellant Dennis Montgomery sued Risen and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing for statements made about him in the book, which suggest he is a "con artist" and "fake" who perpetuated “one of the most elaborate and dangerous hoaxes in American history” by convincing the government he developed software that could track hidden messages from terrorists in Al Jazeera broadcasts. Montgomery lost on summary judgment after the court found that he was a limited purpose public figure and that most of the statements at issue in the case amounted to opinion that is not actionable under the First Amendment. In this amicus brief, we argue that Montgomery qualifies as a limited purpose public figure because of his role in an important government military contract. We also assert that most of the statements in contention are pure opinion not actionable under the First Amendment, especially when viewed in the larger context of Risen's political commentary on national security. Importantly, we are stressing that these issues take on heightened importance in the context of national security reporting, where the interest in informing the public is at its greatest.