I get the sense that certain members of the press think Glenn Greenwald is very odd for responding to an MSNBC host's question about whether he defends Edward Snowden's actions this way:
Greenwald: "Sure. I do defend him just like people on MSNBC defend President Obama and his officials 24 hours a day.
Host Kristen Walker: "Not everyone on MSNBC does that 24 hours a day.
Greenwald: "No, not everybody, but a lot of people on MSNBC do. Sure, I don't make any bones about the fact that I consider what Edward Snowden did to be quite heroic, just like I consider what Chelsea Manning did, Daniel Ellsberg, one of my political heroes. I as a journalist am grateful when people sacrifice their own interest to come forward and bring transparency to the United States government. That to me is what journalism is about and we need that in the United States. I absolutely do defend what Edward Snowden does and I don't pretend otherwise."
I'm sure that most journalists understand what Greenwald was saying there. After all, there have been journalists who went to jail rather than reveal their sources, which would be the most self-sacrificing defense any reporter could make. It's right there in the job description. (And it's quite different than "defending" the powerful, institutional players in Washington who use their positions to dishonestly manipulate policy the way, say, Judy Miller, did.)
I don't know this for sure, of course, but if Edward Snowden had not revealed his identity, does anyone doubt that the journalists to whom he gave his material would have gone to jail to protect his identity if they'd had to? I don't. I suspect that Gellman, Greenwald and Poitras would have all done time rather than reveal him if he had chosen to stay anonymous. Snowden spared them that by coming forward, so it's actually even less surprising than it might have been otherwise that the reporters would openly defend him. After all, they are working with highly respectable, legitimate news organizations full of editors, legal advisors and experts to vet the material. Any professional journalist would defend his source in such a situation.