Edward Snowden And The Assault On Journalism

Mike Rogers - basically, Peter King, part 2.


The pig squeals ever louder. Embarrassed at having been caught red-handed secretly violating the US constitution’s prohibitions on unreasonable search and outraged that their power to do what they like without oversight should ever be called into question, those at the heart of the national security apparatus and their apologists in Congress are lashing out. And in their fury and blind fear of being exposed, they are no longer restricting their attacks to the arch-whistleblower, Edward Snowden himself, but are now expanding their campaign to target those journalists who dare to report and lay bare the abuses of power that Snowden revealed.

Representative Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has become the latest to join the fray, casting doubt on the motives of journalist Glenn Greenwald who worked with Snowden to bring the NSA’s clandestine public surveillance activities into the light of day. The Guardian reports:

Congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee, suggested Greenwald was a “thief” after he worked with news organizations who paid for stories based on the documents.

“For personal gain, he’s now selling his access to information, that’s how they’re terming it … A thief selling stolen material is a thief,” Politico quoted Rogers as saying after a committee hearing on Tuesday. Rogers said his source for the information was “other nations’ press services”.

If, by “selling his access to information”, Rogers means “charging a standard rate to write articles for publications based on his investigative journalism” then I suppose the accusation is spot-on. But of course, it could also be leveled just as easily at any other freelance reporter in the country, and is therefore completely meaningless.

Mike Rogers seems to think that the appropriate mode of behaviour on stumbling upon evidence of criminal activity and abuse of public trust by the government and making it public is to enter into some saintlike – almost socialist, shall we say – stance whereby any future commentary or writing about that subject is then given away for free to all and sundry. Only then, according to the Mike Rogers doctrine, would one avoid the charge of profiting from stolen material.

Rogers is apparently unfamiliar with the work of Bob Woodward, perhaps the most high-profile American investigative reporter in living memory and someone who conducted journalism that was equally damaging to people in power but which never raised public speculation that he should be charged with a crime, a point which Greenwald also notes in a recent interview with Vice Magazine:


Of course, Greenwald does not let Mike Roger’s slanderous accusation that he is profiting from the sale of stolen goods go unchallenged, as The Guardian, his former employer, reports:

Greenwald said that the claim was foolish, unfounded, and designed to intimidate journalists. “The main value in bandying about theories of prosecuting journalists is the hope that it will bolster the climate of fear for journalism,” he tweeted Tuesday.

But Mike Rogers was not the only one to go after Greenwald. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence – whose principal accomplishment in office has been to sit in front of Congress and lie to them with a straight face about the extent to which the government monitored the communications of US citizens – also decided to use the terminology of crime and policework when discussing journalists who either worked directly with Snowden or dared to publish information that came from him:

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, has issued a blistering condemnation of Edward Snowden, calling the surveillance disclosures published by the Guardian and other news outlets a “perfect storm” that would endanger American lives.

Testifying before a rare and unusually raucous public session of the Senate intelligence committee that saw yet another evolution in the Obama administration’s defense of bulk domestic phone records collection, Clapper called on “Snowden and his accomplices” to return the documents the former National Security Agency contractor took, in order to minimize what he called the “profound damage that his disclosures have caused and continued to cause”.

This is a strange development indeed, publicly promoting the idea that a journalist doing their job and reporting government secrets that they themselves did not steal, but which were given to them by a third party informant, is somehow committing a crime. The use of the word “accomplices” by James Clappers says everything that you need to know about his point of view on the leaks, and the contempt in which he holds the American public who are now starting to realise the extent to which their government has been acting in secret.

Even the Director of the FBI got in on the act:

FBI director James Comey said that a reporter “hawking stolen jewelry” was a crime, but it was “harder to say” journalism based off the Snowden leaks was criminal, since such a determination had “first amendment implications.”

This one is a real hoot. Director Comey makes very clear with his choice of words that he would love nothing more than to designate Glenn Greenwald’s (and others who publish information embarrassing to the national security elites) actions a crime, but that he is prevented from doing so because of “first amendment implications”. Note that he does not speak clearly and admit that to do so would be a flagrant breach of the Constitution – no, rather there would merely be “implications”, constitutional hurdles and awkward challenges to be overcome on the road to fulfilling his ultimate goal, namely criminalising free speech.

While the administration of George W. Bush long ago did away with any claim by the Republican Party to basic competence on national security issues, the GOP are by no means alone in their inadequacy – many Democrats seem only too keen to join the false prognosticators and the “mission accomplished” cheerleaders in their continuing efforts to sound tough on every issue of security while speaking absolutely no sense at all. Clapper and Comey, it must be remembered, are appointees of President Obama.

When it comes to those people – be they Republican or Democrat – whose first instinct in any scenario is to defend the government and preserve its power over that of the people – I can only take them as seriously as does this meme that has been doing the rounds:



An enemy of Dick Cheney’s may not automatically be a friend of mine. But it gets you a good hefty proportion of the way there.