Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more insane, Rep. Peter King has added his hope for a treason trial against Edward Snowden with a call for the prosecution of journalists.
“Rep. Peter King said Tuesday he believes any journalists tied to leaks involving classified programs should be punished. ‘If they knew this was classified information, I think action should be taken, especially on something of this magnitude,’ King said on CNN. The New York lawmaker said there was an ‘obligation, both moral but also legal, I believe, against a report disclosing something which would so severely compromise national security. As a practical matter, I guess it happened in the past several years, a number of reporters who have been prosecuted under us, so the answer is yes to your question.’”
What King is advocating is patently illegal and anti-constitutional as has been reiterated by courts with amazing consistency. In fact, before the Snowden revelations change the scandal-of-the-day, one of the big scandals was that the Department of Justice got a warrant on a reporter, James Rosen, on the basis of naming him as a potential “criminal co-conspirator.” Rosen was simply doing his job which is to get news even when the government wants to hide it.
As I wrote about it at the time:
“Even though the government may have a legitimate reason for such a secret, the only way to be sure that the government is not abusing its power is to allow the society that is under the government to, essentially, spy on its own government. This is especially essential in a democracy because voters need information. If a president can keep his actual decisions a secret then how can voters know whether or not to elect him to a second term? But in any government, allowing the government’s agents to persecute or jail people for giving us information means we can live under a tyranny and not even realize it.”
The First Amendment has always been understood to protect journalists from prosecution for revealing classified data. Even if Snowden is imprisoned for life or executed for treason in some horrible miscarriage of justice, the journalist involved are still immune.
Of course, I’m thrilled that Peter King is giving in to his urge to advocate violating the Constitution. I hope Durban goes on the record and repeats his claim that bloggers don’t get First Amendment protections.
Why? Simple: I want the journalists back on our side.
Whatever his strategy was, ever since Snowden revealed himself, the Beltway apologists have managed to successfully use the Saul-Alinsky playbook and personalize the issue. Since Big Media tends to side with Big Government, the tide has been turning against the Fourth Amendment. But if we can remind them that Big Government also wants to attack the First Amendment, nullifying it through a so-called “media shield law” and prosecuting journalists who do their jobs well, we might see a swing back the other way.
So please talk some more, Peter King. Tell us how other people need to go to jail for expecting the government to honor the Bill of Rights.