"News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising."
Jesus H. Christ
A prominent business journalist suggested Monday that The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald should be arrested for reporting on leaks detailing top secret surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. Well at least he said "almost".
Andrew Ross Sorkin, a financial columnist for the New York Times and a commentator for CNBC, said on-air that he'd "almost arrest" Greenwald along with NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who fled Hong Kong for Russia on Sunday in the hopes of ultimately receiving asylum in Ecuador.
"I would arrest [Snowden] and now I'd almost arrest Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who seems to be out there, he wants to help him get to Ecuador or whatever," Sorkin said.
Uh, Wall Street sources? I'd be a little bit careful about talking to this person in the future. He's clearly not a journalist and will sell you down the river the minute a government prosecutor decides to put you in the government crosshairs. True, the government has shown no desire to prosecute any of you for anything. But you never know --- some rogue Attorney general might decide to make an example of you. Your good friend Sorkin here is a very good ... patriot.
I'm just going to post this from the Press Freedom Foundation, which even defends sell-outs like Andrew Ross Sorkin, even though they don't deserve it:
Meet the Press host David Gregory caused a stir on Sunday when he asked Glenn Greenwald, “To the extent that you have ‘aided and abetted’ [Edward] Snowden, even in this current movement, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” Greenwald is the Guardian journalist at the center of the recent NSA reports that have sparked a nationwide debate about the country’s ubiquitous surveillance and secrecy systems. (He is also on our board of directors.)Oh no. Villagers like David Gregory and his ilk are perfectly safe. They would never write or say anything the government didn't expressly tell them to write or say. Their job is to be its servants not its adversaries.
Greenwald’s response to Gregory should be listened to in full, but his main point is worth further reflection: “if you want to embrace that theory, it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information, is a criminal.”
We’ve written many times about the importance of leaks and the First Amendment right to publish government secrets, but ironically, no one demonstrates Greenwald’s point better than Gregory himself. Literally minutes before, in the same segment, Gregory explained what government officials told him about a secret FISA court opinion from 2011 that ruled some of NSA’s surveillance unconstitutional.
GREGORY: With regard to that specific FISA opinion, isn’t the case, based on people that I’ve talked to, that the FISA opinion based on the government’s request is that they said, well, you can get this but you can’t get that. That would actually go beyond the scope of what you’re allowed to do, which means that the request was changed or denied, which is the whole point the government makes, which is that there is actual judicial review here and not abuse. Isn’t this the kind of review and opinion that you would want to keep these programs in line?
The contents of that opinion are still classified, and in fact, just last week, the Daily Beast called FISA court opinions some “of the most highly classified documents inside the U.S. government.” Does David Gregory think he should be charged with a crime for talking to sources, asking questions about classified information, and then reporting what he learned?
Gregory defended his question after the fact by saying Congress is having this “debate” about whether Greenwald should be prosecuted. In reality, there is no debate. One Congressman, Peter King, who has repeatedly and recklessly called for the prosecution of various journalists over the last decade, said Greenwald should be charged with a crime based on alleged comments that Greenwald never made. No one else in Congress has called for any reporters to be prosecuted as part of the recent NSA revelations.
More worrying than Gregory’s question, however, was the insinuation that Greenwald’s reporting isn’t journalism. “The question of who’s a journalist may be up to a debate as to what you’re doing,” Gregory said in response to Greenwald’s answer. He also defended himself later in the show, saying, “There’s a question about [Greenwald’s] role in this, The Guardian’s role in all of this.”
There are serious implications to questioning the status of journalists based on their opinions. Was Edward R. Murrow not a journalist when he reported on, and advocated against, the McCarthy witch hunts in the 1950s? What about when Walter Cronkite advocated, on CBS Evening News, for the end of the Vietnam War? Should his subsequent reports, perhaps influenced by his opinion, not be considered journalism?
When Sen. Claire McCaskill questioned Greenwald’s agenda in reporting these stories, Greenwald didn’t deny it. He responded, “Yes…we have an "agenda" - it's called "transparency" - the same [agenda] Obama/2008 said he had.”
The reality is that there aren’t any journalists on earth that do not naturally have opinions on the subjects they cover. Some choose to hide those opinions behind the veil of “objectivity” as much as possible, others do not.
But regardless of one’s choice of reportage, no journalist loses his or her “objectivity” by defending the principles of transparency or the protections afforded to them under the First Amendment. Indeed, it is built into their job description.
Pulitzer Prize winner Barton Gellman, who reported on PRISM for the Washington Post and has access to some of the Edward Snowden’s documents, put it succinctly: “My advocacy is for open debate of secret powers,” he said. “That's what journalists do.” As the 19th century British publisher Lord Northcliffe once said, "News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising."
The First Amendment was written to enable that adversarial spirit, to protect the journalists who report on the government’s secrets, and to preserve a transparency safety-valve for citizens when their government fails to inform them of actions done under their name.
Journalists endanger their own rights when they don’t stand up for others in their profession, regardless of their point of view. If Glenn Greenwald were ever prosecuted, there would be nothing stopping the Justice Department from going after journalists like David Gregory next.
I think Andrew Sullivan's piece on this is excellent:
Glenn’s role in this was at first passive. Snowden contacted him, not the other way round. He then did what any non-co-opted journalist would do – and examined the data independently, with other independent journalists and published the truth. He’s a role model, not a target.
So why would a journalist like Gregory ask such a question?
First, underlying a lot of this, is the MSM’s fear and loathing and envy of the blogger journalist. Notice that Gregory calls Greenwald a “polemicist” – not a journalist. The difference, I presume, is that polemicists actually make people in power uncomfortable. Journalists simply do their best to get chummy with them in order to get exclusive tidbits that the powerful want you to know.
Second: ask yourself if David Gregory ever asked a similar question of people in government with real power, e.g. Dick Cheney et al. Did he ever ask them why they shouldn’t go to jail for committing documented war crimes under the Geneva Conventions? Nah. Here’s a question Gregory asked of Petraeus during the Obama administration:
Presumably, US forces and Pakistani officials are doing the interrogations, do you wish you had the interrogation methods that were available to you under the Bush administration to get intelligence from a figure like this?Notice the refusal to use the word “torture”. Note the assumption of the premise that torture actually provides reliable intel. Note also Petraeus’ polite dismissal of the neocon question. Gregory has asked this question before:
Can you address my question? Did harsh interrogation help in the hunt for bin Laden?Again, note the refusal to use the word torture. That would be awkward because Gregory is a social friend of Liz Cheney (Gregory’s wife worked with Cheney’s husband at the law firm Latham & Watkins). Who wants to call their social friend a war criminal? Notice also this classic Washington discussion by Gregory on torture. It’s entirely about process. There is no substantive position on something even as profound as war crimes. The toughest sentence: “This is a debate that’s going to continue.” Gregory is obviously pro-torture, hides behind neutrality, and beats up opponents with one-sided questions.
It just hasn’t occurred to him that the only place for Dick Cheney right now is jail.
I don't think he could ever believe he should be. What's a little torture among villagers?
Update: Glenn Greenwald explains to Greg Sargent why the idea he was in cahoots with Snowden before he took the job at Booz Allen is bullshit.
Maybe we can all put away our kerning manuals for a minute and get back to whether or not it's ok if the US government is spying on everyone because: terrorists. And hey, maybe we can even take a look at why they have declared war on whistleblowers and journalists and have instituted programs to make federal workers inform on each other. I know it['s not as much fun, but it really is important.
Update II: More from Greenwald, appearing on Jake Tapper's show earlier today:
TAPPER: Fox News Channel's James Rosen encouraged his leaker to give him documents and set up what he thought was a secret way to e-mail him. I'm not going to launch any accusations at you, Glenn, but did you do anything beyond what James Rosen did in terms of communication with Snowden?
Did you work with him to get him a job at Booz Allen?
Did you advise him on how to transfer the documents?
GREENWALD: The reason I've been reluctant to answer that question up until this point is because the theory on which those questions are based - and I'm not suggesting you're embracing it, but you're - you're referencing the theory that others have embraced - is really quite pernicious, that if you're a journalist and you work with your source and in - and in cooperating with them and in obtaining documents that you think ought to be released to the public that somehow that's called aiding and abetting. I call that investigative journalism. There is no investigative journalist on the planet who doesn't work cooperatively with their sources in order to obtain the information they need to inform their readers.
That said, um, not only did I not do more than Mr. Rosen was accused of doing by the Justice Department when he was called a co-conspirator, I did much, much less. I didn't even know where Mr. Snowden worked or what his name was until after he was on - in Hong Kong with the documents.
We had some preliminary communications with him about how to communicate, uh, secretly, um, in a way that would be secure, um, but other than that, nothing.
And so anybody who wants to raise this insinuation against me, against "The Washington Post," Bart Gellman or anybody else that we somehow aided and abetted Mr. Snowden, anyone who wants to even raise that, let alone claim it, um, ought to be compelled to point to specifics or point to evidence to support that accusation, because there is none.
Otherwise, it - it's just reckless insinuation and shouldn't be tolerated.