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NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is seen in this still image taken from video during an interview by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6, 2013. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered asylum to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden on July 5, 2013 in defiance of Washington, which is demanding his arrest for divulging details of secret U.S. spy programs. Picture taken June 6, 2013. MANDATORY CREDIT. REUTERS/Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras/Courtesy of The Guardian/Handout via Reuters NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is seen in this still image taken from video during an interview by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6, 2013. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered asylum to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden on July 5, 2013 in defiance of Washington, which is demanding his arrest for divulging details of secret U.S. spy programs. Picture taken June 6, 2013. MANDATORY CREDIT. REUTERS/Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras/Courtesy of The Guardian/Handout via Reuters  

Justice Dept silent on whether Greenwald faces arrest for Snowden reports

The Justice Department won’t tell a Democratic lawmaker if it plans to arrest or prosecute Glenn Greenwald — the reporter who published secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden — if he returns to the United States.

U.S. News reports that Florida Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on October 10, requesting that the Justice Department inform him if it intends to bring charges against Greenwald and whether the reporter will face detention or arrest once he enters the United States.

But over one month later the department continues to keep Grayson in the dark, and the congressman believes the delay is deliberate.

“It’s very unlikely that the Justice Department has not given this any thought,” Grayson told U.S. News. “If this had come out of the blue, then maybe they would have some reason to take a long time in responding. I think they already know what their answer is, and therefore they should provide it quickly.”

Grayson says Greenwald, an American citizen living in Brazil, fears “detention, and potentially prosecution, by the Department of Justice or other U.S. authorities” over the documents he published detailing the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance activities.

Without assurances to the contrary, Greenwald will not meet with Grayson and other lawmakers seeking more information on the Snowden disclosures.

Grayson believes Greenwald’s status as a reporter shields him from retaliation. “The administration and the attorney general have taken hostile positions against other investigative journalists,” he said. “I think that has caused the whole profession some concern. It’s reasonable for DOJ to make its position clear: Is the act of investigative journalism now a crime, or not?”

But other lawmakers have called on the U.S. government to punish Greenwald for collaborating with Snowden, a fact Grayson alludes to in his letter. In June, New York Republican Rep. Peter King said prosecution against Greenwald should be “considered.”

“No right is absolute and even the press has certain exceptions,” he said. “When you have someone who’s disclosed secrets like this and threatens to release more, then to me, yes, there has to be — legal action should be taken against him.”

David Miranda, Greenwald’s partner, has also had a brush with the law. Last August, he was detained for nine hours by British police at London’s Heathrow Airport on the suspicion of carrying documents from Snowden. Although he was eventually released, British authorities labelled Miranda’s actions a form of “terrorism.”

Liberal firebrand Grayson has been active on these issues for some time. In July he earned a rare rebuke from the House Intelligence Committee for distributing classified National Security Agency slides to other lawmakers. The slides had already been leaked by Snowden weeks previously.

Greenwald hasn’t returned to the United States since publishing the first Snowden documents in June, but he apparently reached out to American lawyers with contacts in the Justice Department. He also came up empty-handed, tweeting last Thursday that “well-connected lawyers” were unable to get answers regarding the Justice Department’s plan for his return.

“We have no comment regarding the department’s communications with Congress,” a Justice Department spokesman told U.S. News on Monday.

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