Vic. (CC BY 2.0)

In an essay marking the passage of two years since The Guardian’s publication of the first story based on the Edward Snowden archive, Glenn Greenwald describes the alarming number of journalists who have taken to the “warpath against transparency.”

“So many journalists were furious about the [NSA] revelations, and were demanding prosecution for them,” he explains, “there should have been a club created called ‘Journalists Against Transparency’ or ‘Journalists for State Secrecy’ and it would have been highly populated.”

He includes among the worst offenders New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin, writers David Brooks and Bob Schieffer and MSNBC hosts Melissa Harris-Perry, Ed Schultz, Joy-Ann Reid and Lawrence O’Donnell.

But most egregious, as Greenwald’s Intercept piece says, is a June 4 editorial in the Los Angeles Times calling for Snowden to come back to the U.S. and face prosecution.

Greenwald writes:

Isn’t it extraordinary that people who want to be regarded as journalists would write an editorial calling for the criminal prosecution of a key source? Principles aside: Just on grounds of self-interest, wouldn’t you think they’d want to avoid telling future sources that the Los Angeles Times believes leaking is criminal and those who do it belong in prison?

The LAT editors began by acknowledging that Snowden, not President Obama, is “the ultimate author” of the so-called surveillance reform enacted into law. They also acknowledge that “the American people have Snowden to thank for these reforms.”

Despite that, they are opposed to a pardon or to clemency. While generously conceding that Snowden has “a strong argument for leniency,” they nonetheless insist that “in a society of laws, someone who engages in civil disobedience in a higher cause should be prepared to accept the consequences.”

I see this argument often and it’s hard to overstate how foul it is. To begin with, if someone really believes that, they should be demanding the imprisonment of every person who ever leaks information deemed “classified,” since it’s an argument that demands the prosecution of anyone who breaks the law, or at least “consequences” for them. That would mean dragging virtually all of Washington, which leaks constantly and daily, into a criminal court — to say nothing of their other crimes such as torture. But of course, such high-minded media lectures about the “rule of law” are applied only to those who are averse to Washington’s halls of power, not to those who run them.

More important, Snowden was “prepared to accept the consequences.” When he decided to blow the whistle, he knew that there was a very high risk that he’d end up in a U.S. prison for decades — we thought that’d be the most likely outcome — and yet he did it anyway. He knowingly took that risk. And even now, he has given up his family, his home, his career and his ability to travel freely — hardly someone free of “consequences.”

But that doesn’t mean he has to meekly crawl to American authorities with his wrists extended and politely ask to be put in a cage for 30 years, almost certainly in some inhumane level of penal oppression typically reserved for Muslims and those accused of national security crimes. The idea that anyone who breaks an unjust law has a moral obligation to submit to an unjust penal state and accept lengthy imprisonment is noxious and authoritarian.

Without making any comparisons but instead just to illustrate the principle involved: Anyone decent regards Nelson Mandela as a heroic moral actor, but he didn’t submissively turn himself into the South African government in order to be imprisoned. Instead, he avoided capture and prison for as long as he could by evading arrest and remaining a fugitive (and was captured only when the CIA, which regarded him as a “terrorist,” helped its apartheid allies find and apprehend him).

Third, anyone who has even casually watched the post-9/11 American judicial system knows what an absurdity it is to claim that Snowden would receive a fair trial. He’s barred under the Espionage Act even from arguing that his leaks were justified; he wouldn’t be permitted to utter a word about that. The American judiciary has been almost uniformly subservient to the U.S. government in national security prosecutions. And the series of laws that has been enacted in the name of terrorism almost guarantee.

Fourth, and most revealing, the LA Times itself constantly publishes illegal leaks, though the ones it publishes usually come from top government officials. Indeed, for years it employed a national security report, Ken Dilanian, who specializes in stenographically disseminating the pro-government claims that government officials want him to convey (and, totally unsurprisingly, Dilanian himself became one of the leading journalistic opponents of the Snowden disclosures, and, now with AP, this week was bemoaning that Snowden made Americans aware of so much about what their government has been doing to the Internet).

Read the rest here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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