In Obama’s America, officials accuse journalists who are doing their jobs of committing felonies and subject them to Orwellian surveillance, but spy-enablers posing as reporters get a free pass. For proof, look no further than Fox’s James Rosen and a certain Glenn Greenwald, who may be NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s partner in crime.
James Rosen of Fox News is a journalist. In June 2009, he published a story revealing that the intelligence bureaucracy believed that North Korea planned a nuclear test and other aggressive actions. Like much reporting about national security, the story was based on a classified assessment someone in the government decided to leak. The Rosen report was unhelpful to a new Obama administration eager to downplay foreign threats and focus on its domestic agenda.
As a result, an FBI agent testi-lied in an affidavit to an apparently gullible federal judge that Rosen was possibly an “aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator” to a crime. That fiction enabled government investigators to peek at Rosen’s private email and phone records. They even spied on the phone calls of his parents in Staten Island — both notorious subversives, I’m sure.
Rosen’s source was charged under the Espionage Act. Rosen may have been, too, were it not for the public outcry about the administration’s targeting of him. Also, Fox News and its CEO, Roger Ailes, pulled no punches in defending Rosen. Far from benching Rosen amid the controversy, they saw to it that he was on the air almost every night for weeks in an unmistakable signal of support. Ailes also penned a “Dear colleagues” letter backing Rosen unequivocally and saying that the Obama tactics were reminiscent of the McCarthy era.
Obama officials blinked. Congressmen enquiring why Attorney General Eric Holder misled Congress about targeting reporters were told on June 3 that Rosen wouldn’t be prosecuted. Regardless, Obama’s threat to real journalists and would-be sources was clear — and unrepentant. Reporters at another targeted news organization, the Associated Press, have said their sources have gone cold.
Now consider the case of Glenn Greenwald, who publicized Edward Snowden’s revelations. Before Greenwald became affiliated with The Guardian, a left-wing British paper, he was a writer for Salon.com. Before that, he was a liberal blogger.
Two veins of thought run consistently through what Greenwald has done and written. The first reflects what President Reagan’s ambassador to the U.N., Jeane Kirkpatrick, called the “blame America first crowd.” Their outlook holds that the United States is responsible for much of what is wrong in the world, not the terrorists who murder, the tyrants who oppress, the militants who wage wars of aggression, etc.
Greenwald exhibited this tendency in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. He wrote that Americans’ distress that day was identical to “the rage in sustained form that people across the world feel toward the U.S. for killing innocent people in their countries.” Further flexing his dizzying intellect, Greenwald added that “applying these reactions to those acts of U.S. aggression would go a long way toward better understanding what they are and the outcomes they generate.”
In other words, burn on you, dumb Americans, this is what you get for fighting your attackers abroad and helping others resist tyranny. There are, of course, plenty of people who say things like this, but reasonable people generally don’t think of them as balanced journalists.
The other consistent vein of thought exhibited by Greenwald is passionate opposition to government surveillance, even when authorized by law, focused on terrorists, and executed under strict criteria and protocols. Greenwald edited a book in 2010 about the “digital surveillance state.” Another of his books focuses on Bush-era counter-terrorism surveillance and Bush’s supposed “extremist theories of presidential power.” He wrote the foreword to another book lionizing whistleblowers who reveal classified national security information.
In March 2006, Greenwald blogged about the “intensifying debate over the NSA scandal specifically and, even more so, the radical theories of law-breaking power embraced by the Bush Administration generally.” In fact, there was no real NSA scandal at the time. But seven years later, there would be. Did Greenwald just report on it, or did he collude with indicted spy Snowden to create it?
By Greenwald’s own account, Edward Snowden first approached him in February. Suspiciously, Snowden did not begin working for NSA contactor Booz Allen Hamilton until March. Furthermore, Snowden told the South China Morning Post that he sought the NSA contractor job with the premeditated intent to expose classified secrets.
Are we to believe that Greenwald, the activist blogger and long-time opponent of the NSA, the Patriot Act, and government surveillance, was merely in receive mode when it came to Snowden? On the contrary, a reasonable person would conclude there is probable cause to investigate whether Greenwald in fact cheered and collaborated with Snowden from the outside, which would make him an accomplice.
More damning is Greenwald’s receipt of secret documents from Snowden in Hong Kong, some of which have been published. While it is accepted journalistic practice for investigative reporters to receive tidbits of restricted information from leakers, this does not extend to receiving, possessing, and redistributing the actual classified material, which is a felony. That act alone should put Greenwald behind bars.
But in Barack Obama’s America, it probably won’t. After all, Obama basically did nothing to WikiLeaks when it processed and disseminated hundreds of thousands of stolen government documents in 2010, inevitably causing harm or death to thousands of sources around the globe. The doctor who helped us find Osama bin Laden is rotting in a Pakistani jail, thanks to a White House leak. That leak has never been prosecuted.
As Fox’s James Rosen learned, the administration does target reporters who are politically unhelpful. Spy-enablers masquerading as reporters who inflict mass harm to America’s security get a pass.
Christian Whiton is a former State Department senior advisor. He is the author of the upcoming book “Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War.”