NBC “Meet the Press” host David Gregory got a rise out of Glenn Greenwald on Sunday by asking the Guardian reporter why he shouldn’t be charged with a crime for having “aided and abetted” former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden.
Greenwald replied on the show Sunday that it was “pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies.”
Greenwald first reported Snowden’s disclosure of U.S. government surveillance programs. On Sunday, Ecuador’s foreign minister and the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said that Snowden was headed to Ecuador to seek asylum.
During his interview with NBC’s Gregory, Greenwald declined to discuss where Snowden was headed. That refusal seemed to prompt Gregory to ask: “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”
Greenwald said Gregory was embracing the Obama administration’s attempt to “criminalize investigative journalism,” citing an FBI agent’s characterization of Fox News journalist James Rosen as a probable co-conspirator of a State Department contractor who was suspected of leaking classified information to Rosen. Rosen was not charged.
“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, and it’s precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States,” said Greenwald, a former constitutional and civil rights lawyer who has written three books contending that the government has violated personal rights in the name of protecting national security.
Gregory responded that “the question of who is a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you are doing.” Gregory also said he was merely asking a question.
“That question has been raised by lawmakers as well,” Gregory said. “I’m not embracing anything, but, obviously, I take your point.”
Later, Greenwald tweeted, “Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?” and, “Has David Gregory ever publicly wondered if powerful DC officials should be prosecuted for things like illegal spying & lying to Congress?”
David Gregory is probably the wrong person to be asking that question, but it is a legitimate issue. How far does freedom of the press extend?
If members of the internet media are not members of the press, neither are members of radio and television media. Only those who use traditional dead-tree (or dead sheep) publishing methods would qualify. I think Glenn Greenwald qualifies as a member of the press.
But is there some line the press cannot cross without breaking the law?
Can they trespass onto private or government property to get stories?
Can they knowingly publish state secrets?
Can they aid and abet someone who is stealing/illegally divulging classified information?
What if Walter Cronkite found out on June 1, 1944 that the Allies planned to invade Normandy in a few days. Would he have committed a crime by reporting that information?
These are actually important policy questions. On the one hand we citizens need to know what our government is up to. On the other hand we don’t want to give away our thoughts and plans to our enemies.
I’m not talking about the Bradley Mannings and Edward Snowdens, I am talking about the Julian Assanges and Glenn Greenwalds. How much of a shield does the 1st Amendment provide for them?