Debate has intensified over whether or not Edward Snowden — who leaked copious details about secret NSA programs — should face criminal prosecution. For the first time though, a member of Congress is directing attention away from the leaker and towards the journalist who helped disclose the documents to the American public. Here’s Republican Rep. Peter King — during a conversation with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly — actually calling for the criminal prosecution of Glenn Greenwald for printing what Ed Snowden leaked to him:
MEGYN KELLY: It’s not particularly newsworthy that you’re calling for Snowden to be prosecuted, because we’ve seen that over the past few days. But to take it another step and say that journalists who publish the information, you know, the guys who published what he leaked, that they should face prosecution, that is news. Do you believe that? Do you stand by that? Both Greenwald and The Washington Post reporter?
KING: I’m talking about Greenwald. 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.
For his part, Greenwald’s first response couldn’t have been better:
Only In America can a renowned and devoted terrorism supporter like Peter King be the arbiter of national security and treason.—
Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 12, 2013
The lauded journalist also quickly denied King’s claim that he (Greenwald) threatened to disclose the “names of CIA agents and assets around the world”, and further defended his actions and intentions — and those of Snowden — in a phone interview with Greg Sargent:
“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.”
When asked whether he considered the possibility of any Democratic elected officials pushing back and calling this unacceptable, Greenwald had this to say:
“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?”
My thoughts on the leaks themselves are no secret, but if there’s a line that should never be crossed, it’s prosecuting journalists for doing their Constitutionally protected jobs. Whatever my feelings about Greenwald’s characterizations of the world and of national security, the man had every right to do what he did.