NERMEEN SHAIKH : Chris Hedges, one of the problems that people have pointed to is that there aren't procedures or mechanisms in place for people within the government to point out wrongdoing when it does occur. Do you think that's one of the problems that's occurred in this case with Edward Snowden? Or, for that matter, your most recent article was on Army whistleblower, Private Bradley Manning.
CHRIS HEDGES : Well, we used to have a mechanism. It was called the press. And we used to be able to tell our sources that they would be protected and that they would not be investigated for providing information that exposed the inner workings of power. Unfortunately, the press, like most institutions in this country, and I would add the legal profession, has largely collapsed under this corporate coup d'e'tat that's taken place and is no longer functioning. And I want to get back, that what this is fundamentally a debate about is whether we are going to have, through the press, an independent institution within this country that can examine the inner workings of power or not. And it is now--I mean, many of us had suspected this widespread surveillance, but now that it's confirmed, we're seeing--you know, why did Snowden come out publicly? Well, because I think he knew that they would find out anyway, because they have all of Glenn Greenwald's email, phone records and everything else, and they can very quickly find out who he was speaking to and whether Snowden had contact with him. And that--you know, I speak as reporter--is terrifying, because it essentially shuts down any ability to counter the official propaganda and the official narrative and expose the crimes. And we have seen in the last few years tremendous crimes being committed by those in power. We have no ability now to investigate them.
AMY GOODMAN : Professor Stone, let me ask you about whether the reporters from The Guardian and The Washington Post should be prosecuted. CNN's Anderson Cooper put this question to Republican Congressmember Peter King of New York last night.
ANDERSON COOPER : As far as reporters who helped reveal these programs, do you believe something should happen to them? Do you believe they should be punished, as well?- Advertisement -
REP . PETER KING : Actually, if they--if they willingly knew that this was classified information, I think actions should be taken, especially on something of this magnitude. I know that the whole issue of leaks has been gone into over the last month, but I think something on this magnitude, there is an obligation, both moral but also legal, I believe, against a reporter disclosing something which would so severely compromise national security.
AMY GOODMAN : Professor Stone, your response to what Peter King is saying?
GEOFFREY STONE : He's just wrong. The Supreme Court, in the Pentagon Papers case, for example, made very clear that although Daniel Ellsberg could be prosecuted for--as a public official stealing information, that The New York Times and The Washington Post could not be restrained from publishing that information. The court has essentially held that although the government can control classified information at its source by prohibiting employees from revealing it, once the information goes out, it cannot then punish the press for publishing it. It's a little bit odd as a system. But the idea is that, on the one hand, we have freedom of the press, which has to be preserved; on the other hand, the government has a legitimate interest in maintaining confidentiality at the source within the government itself. So, no, clearly, Greenwald and Reuters and so on, none of those can be -- The Guardian, none of those can be punished, consistent with the First Amendment. That's clear.
NERMEEN SHAIKH : Professor Stone, so do you believe that Edward Snowden's position is comparable to Daniel Ellsberg's position with the Pentagon Papers and that The Guardian played a comparable role to The New York Times?
GEOFFREY STONE : So, I think Snowden's position, based upon what I know now, is much worse. Ellsberg revealed historical information that had really no appreciable threat to the national security. It was all old information about what the government had done in the past. And what Snowden has revealed is information about ongoing programs, which, we're told, are extremely important to the national security, and we're told that the revelation of those programs makes them far less efficient. That's a very serious--potentially very serious harm to the nation. That was not the case in Ellsberg's situation.
AMY GOODMAN : But, Professor Stone--
GEOFFREY STONE : So I think, from that standpoint, what--
AMY GOODMAN : Henry Kissinger said--
GEOFFREY STONE : Yes.
AMY GOODMAN : --Dan Ellsberg was "the most dangerous man in America," so they certainly--at that time, they were telling us that what he was doing was threatening national security.
GEOFFREY STONE : He said that at the time before they had an opportunity to really reflect on what was released. Years later, or even weeks later, that was no longer the case. So, I think that those two situations are not remotely comparable, in terms of the harm that Ellsberg did to the country, which I think was trivial, relative to what Snowden has done, which arguably is far more serious.
Let me make another point about civil liberties here, by the way, that it's extremely important to understand that if you want to protect civil liberties in this country, you not only have to protect civil liberties, you also have to protect against terrorism, because what will destroy civil liberties in this country more effectively than anything else is another 9/11 attack. And if the government is not careful about that, and if we have more attacks like that, you can be sure that the kind of things the government is doing now are going to be regarded as small potatoes compared to what would happen in the future. So it's very complicated, asking what's the best way to protect civil liberties in the United States.