Glenn Greenwald to Pete King: Bring it on

A number of commentators have already suggested that Edwards Snowden should be prosecuted for leaking explosive details about the NSA programs. But today, for the first time, a member of Congress called for prosecution of Glenn Greenwald over his role in disclosing these details as a journalist, when GOP Rep. Pete King called for legal action to be taken against him:

“Greenwald, not only did he disclose this information, he has said he has names of CIA agents and assets around the world and they’re threatening to disclose that. The last time that was done we saw the murder of a station chief in Greece. No right is absolute. And even the press has certain restrictions. I think it should be very targeted, very selective, and certainly a very rare exception, but in this case, when you have someone who has disclosed secrets like this and threatens to release more, then to me, yes, there has to be, there should be legal action taken against him. This is a very unusual case with life and death implications for Americans.”

On Twitter today Greenwald flatly denied that he is threatening to disclose the “names of CIA agents and assets around the world,” as King put it And in a phone interview with me today, he went significantly further in defending himself, arguing that his intentions — and those of his source — are being completely misrepresented.

“We did not want to just go and arbitrarily disclose things for the sake of harming the United States,” he said. “He wanted to trigger a debate and inform people. Given that he has access to incredible amounts of top secret information, if his intent at all were to harm the U.S., he could have disclosed enormous amounts of info that would have endangered all kinds of people. That’s the opposite of his intentions, and his actions prove that.”

Greenwald said he has spoken with lawyers about whether he is at legal risk. “I have spoken with lawyers about representing me in the event that I need one,” he said. He added he has not dismissed the possibility that he really may face prosecution, given the Obama administration’s aggressive prosecution of leak cases, and given the targeting of Fox News’ James Rosen, who was named a “co-conspirator” in a legal brief. “It would be irrational for me to dismiss the possibility,” he said.

But he did add that he doesn’t really expect to face prosecution: “We know that as journalists we have the right to report on what the government is doing,” he said, adding that “I can’t imagine that anyone other than Peter King” thinks otherwise.

Which raises a question: Now that a public official — in the form of Rep. King – has raised the possibility of prosecution, will any Democratic elected officials push back and call this unacceptable? Whatever you think of Greenwald, this shouldn’t be too much to expect from Dems — even those who support the NSA programs and deplore the leaks.

“I would think that even the most extremist Democrats on national security would be offended at the idea that journalists would be threatened with prosecution for doing their jobs,” Greenwald said. “If Democrats don’t stand for the principle that journalists can’t be prosecuted for doing this, then what do they stand for?”

Greenwald added, however, that the threat of prosecution would only encourage him to continue: “It’s not going to deter me or limit me or constrain me in any way from exercising my core First Amendment rights.”

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.
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Greg Sargent | June 12, 2013