When I was testifying in the House Intelligence Committee, these members were coming off like Claude Rains -- that they were 'shocked, shocked' people are leaking things in Washington. Some of these people routinely pick up the phone and leak embarrassing things against each other. And that's viewed as part of the game.
But I think that they share a certain dislike for journalists and whistleblowers doing it.
Kevin McCabe: What is the legal standard? If there was a comparable dynamic, a comparable scenario, not Assange, somebody who is being accused of being a leaker or hacker, or a non-whistleblower threat to America. And then, there's a government entity that's -- either on instructions or on their own volition -- setting up an investigation; from a strictly legal point of view, what is the protection for the individual that's initiating the action, whether it's well-intended or more venal; and whether you're a government official or a citizen, or even a non citizen -- what are the legal standards for saying -- I can leak, but you can't?
I cannot believe that Leon Panetta is allowed to call up the mainstream media and say -- don't report that story, here's a better story, and I need this, or whatever. They do it all the time. But if somebody else does it, he can get the electric chair. I don't get it.
John Cusack: Or the differences being that because Seymour Hersh doesn't burn his sources, he can release classified information about Iran attacks or WMDs... because besides the hacker argument which we don't know if its true -- are they falling back on the method to which he's gone about releasing this information? Or is it just a general deep-freeze in hypocrisy?
Jonathan Turley: Well, I think the problem is the legal standard. If you read the federal law, it's quite sweeping that it is a crime to possess classified information without having a clearance or a need to have that information.
Kevin McCabe: Is Judith Miller in that world, or is that different?
Jonathan Turley: Well, that can be used against any journalist who receives classified information like the Pentagon Papers. And the problem is that the courts, particularly since the Rehnquist court, have gradually reduced the journalistic privilege in this country. There's a crime fraud exception to the journalistic privilege, which is why journalists can be pulled into grand juries and thrown into jail for not testifying. That's not just for classified matters but for any criminal matter.
John Cusack: But then it doesn't uniformly apply to the government. So when Rove released Valerie Plame's identity, -- well, I guess they got Scooter Libby, so they gave up one head.
Jonathan Turley: Well, but there's a lot of those types of conflicts. I mean, you had Sandy Berger, who reportedly put classified material in his sock and walked out of a secure facility. Any other person doing that would likely have been prosecuted, and he --
Kevin McCabe: And leaked it. It wasn't like he was bringing it home to put in his varsity album.
Jonathan Turley: Yeah. So there's a great deal of that.
People don't realize that the Obama Administration has been, if anything, harder on whistleblowers than the Bush Administration. Part of the reason is that they know that the response will be more muted because the traditional constituency supporting whistleblowers just happen to be the same constituency as Obama's. And so they --
John Cusack: Can you explain that a little more? I don't quite understand that.
Jonathan Turley: Well, that the Obama Administration, in the area of whistleblowers, has taken the same position as they have with regard to civil liberties. That is, they are fully aware --
John Cusack: Institutionalizing the Bush agenda, the massive expansion of executive power...