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US Threats Mount Against Journalists, Snowden

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Congressional leaders and representatives of the US military-intelligence apparatus have stepped up their threats against Edward Snowden and the journalists who have worked with him to expose massive illegal spying by the National Security Agency (NSA).

At a hearing Tuesday of the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, repeatedly suggested that journalists who received leaked NSA documents from Snowden and wrote articles about them were guilty of criminal acts.

These statements follow published death threats against Snowden from unnamed military and intelligence officials and demands from the Obama administration that he plead guilty and turn himself in.

Rogers engaged his main witness at Tuesday's hearing, FBI Director James Comey, in a lengthy exchange over whether an unnamed journalist would be guilty of "fencing stolen material" if he published articles based on the Snowden revelations. Because reporters are paid for their work, Rogers suggested, they were engaged in selling stolen material for profit. He posed the question to Comey, "If I'm hocking stolen classified material that I'm not legally in possession of for personal gain and profit, is that not a crime?"

Comey was more cautious in his public utterances, agreeing that a journalist who sold stolen jewelry was guilty of a crime, but suggesting stolen documents might not be as clear a case. "I think that's a harder question because it involves a news-gathering function," he said. It "could have First Amendment implications," he added. [Emphasis added].

However, Comey did not rule out prosecution. Rogers continued, "So if I'm a newspaper reporter for -- fill in the blank -- and I sell stolen material, is that legal because I'm a newspaper reporter?"

Comey eventually declared, after being pressed by Rogers, "I don't want to talk about the case in particular because it's an active investigation of ours."

Rogers then asked, "It's an active investigation for accomplices brokering in stolen information?" Comey replied, "We are looking at the totality of the circumstances around the theft and promulgation."

After the hearing, Rogers made it clear that one of the journalists he had in mind was Glenn Greenwald, the former Guardian reporter who has written numerous articles on the NSA based on his access to the trove of documents taken by Snowden. "For personal gain, he's now selling his access to information, that's how they're terming it," Rogers claimed. "A thief selling stolen material is a thief."

Rogers also said, referring to Snowden himself, "I can tell you from a whole series of classified meetings, the folks who do this for a living believe he is under the influence of the Russians."

The obvious conclusion of the exchange between Rogers and Comey is that the Obama administration is considering criminal charges against Greenwald, as well as filmmaker Laura Poitras and Washington Post contributor Barton Gellman, who also have access to the Snowden documents and have reported on them.

Greenwald strongly defended his actions and the actions of his fellow journalists in interviews and Twitter postings after the House committee hearing. "There's something that has become pretty sick about DC political culture if the idea of prosecuting journalists is now this mainstream," he said on Twitter. "The main value in bandying about theories of prosecuting journalists is the hope that it will bolster the climate of fear for journalism."

No journalist has ever been prosecuted in the United States on the claim that receiving unauthorized information was akin to receipt of stolen goods. Greenwald added, "What they're trying to do is to remove it from the realm of journalism so that they can then criminalize it."

The McCarthy-style threats against journalists by Rogers came amid mounting threats against Snowden and his allies by top military-intelligence officials.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, speaking at another hearing Tuesday, referred to the journalists who have extensively reported on the NSA as "accomplices" of Snowden, a term suggesting co-conspirators in a criminal enterprise. This comment followed Clapper's testimony the previous week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he denounced Snowden as the architect of the "most damaging theft of intelligence information in our history."

Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who commands the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Matt Olsen, chief of the National Counterterrorism Center, claimed that Snowden's revelations had resulted in changes in how Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups conduct their communications activities.

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Patrick Martin writes for the World Socialist Website (wsws.org), a forum for socialist ideas & analysis & published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).

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Mike Rogers must either be highly paid for his com... by Rusty on Thursday, Feb 6, 2014 at 8:28:27 PM
Much as  detest what Mike Rogers said--and fi... by Patrick Walker on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 9:31:35 AM
Important news.  Somehow, the folks from the ... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 10:22:57 AM
The worst crime there is is embarrassing a governm... by Jerry Wesner on Thursday, Feb 6, 2014 at 8:39:14 PM
I disagree. I believe the worst crime is a governm... by Dennis Kaiser on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 7:09:49 AM
I agree with Dennis.  Unfortunately, tyrants ... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 10:33:15 AM
Jerry, Could be they are trying to spook (oops...... by Sun King on Monday, Feb 10, 2014 at 3:08:48 PM
So Snowden revealed who had their hands in the coo... by M.I. Lee on Thursday, Feb 6, 2014 at 9:01:09 PM
A Washington Post editorial yesterday condemned th... by Jon Shafer on Thursday, Feb 6, 2014 at 9:18:13 PM
American repression continues. Democracy is so fa... by Hosea McAdoo on Thursday, Feb 6, 2014 at 10:03:03 PM
Somewhat like my thoughts on terrorism, Hosea....... by Sun King on Monday, Feb 10, 2014 at 3:20:04 PM
I do not think we should "threaten" Edward Snowden... by Woody Smith on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 6:45:13 AM
How do you feel about the outing of Valerie Plame... by Mike Farris on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 7:10:06 AM
Snowden a COWARD??? I doubt you on your most test... by Patrick Walker on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 9:19:46 AM
Woody's comment only deserves two words in respons... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 10:38:07 AM
If you want too see a coward get a mirror. ... by Hosea McAdoo on Saturday, Feb 8, 2014 at 7:39:29 AM
So acting in the interest of the people of the US ... by Arianna Marie Cigolini on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 7:55:01 AM
You post has the sound of reason but it also has t... by Sun King on Monday, Feb 10, 2014 at 3:31:28 PM
The Constitution is still the supreme law of the l... by intotheabyss on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 9:19:04 AM
William Shakespeare wrote about people like "Chai... by mrk * on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 7:31:42 PM
If the Yankee government really thinks that inter... by jon cranor on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 8:13:32 PM
USA law is Jus Gentium Will Durant, The Story of ... by Ethan Hollow on Friday, Feb 7, 2014 at 11:56:31 PM
This copy/paste job has nothing to do with the sub... by Sun King on Monday, Feb 10, 2014 at 3:53:38 PM
Marxism views liberal democracy as an unrealistic... by Ethan Hollow on Saturday, Feb 8, 2014 at 12:16:46 AM
Rogers suggestions to criminalize journalists for ... by Neal Chalabi Chambers on Sunday, Feb 9, 2014 at 1:02:08 PM
I'd like to see a list of all the corporations the... by Sun King on Monday, Feb 10, 2014 at 3:56:08 PM
Jerry, Could be they are trying to spook (oops...... by Sun King on Monday, Feb 10, 2014 at 3:10:16 PM