Don't Shoot the Messenger

Since Glenn Greenwald first exposed the NSA's vast unconstitutional surveillance program last year, a strange phenomenon has developed wherein certain elements of the media have slavishly defended the U.S. government and relentlessly attacked Greenwald and his source Edward Snowden, going so far as suggesting that Greenwald himself should be charged with a crime.

Watch as David Gregory, in June 2013, suggested (masked as a question) that Greenwald should be charged with felonies for "aiding and abetting" Snowden.


In an op-ed in USA Today, Kirsten Powers noted some of Greenwald's fellow journalists "seem to labor under the delusion that it's their job to protect the government," rather than engage in robust oversight of the regime.

With the publication of Greenwald's book, "No Place To Hide," the attacks have only increased. The New York Times asked journalist Michael Kinsley to review Greenwald's book, and Kinsley in turn attacked Greenwald as "unpleasant" and a "self-righteous sourpuss" before going on to claim that journalists should only publish what the government allows them to and ponder whether Greenwald deserves to be locked up for publishing stories about the NSA breaking the law to conduct surveillance on the American people.

Greenwald responded to Kinsley, concluding:

So let’s recap: The New York Times chose someone to review my book about the Snowden leaks who has a record of suggesting that journalists may be committing crimes when publishing information against the government’s wishes. That journalist then proceeded to strongly suggest that my prosecution could be warranted. Other prominent journalists —including the one who hosts Meet the Press–then heralded that review without noting the slightest objection to Kinsley’s argument.

Do I need to continue to participate in the debate over whether many U.S. journalists are pitifully obeisant to the U.S. government? Did they not just resolve that debate for me? What better evidence can that argument find than multiple influential American journalists standing up and cheering while a fellow journalist is given space in The New York Times to argue that those who publish information against the government’s wishes are not only acting immorally but criminally?

In Powers' op-ed, she notes that Daniel Ellsberg had previously observed that even though he was up against the government when he released the Pentagon Papers, "journalists were not turning on journalists."

She concluded,

Political philosopher Hannah Arendt once noted, "To think critically is to always be hostile." This should be the mantra of all journalists. As for Greenwald's critics, perhaps they could turn their hostile gaze from him to a more worthwhile target: the government they've been charged with holding accountable.

In New York Times Company v. United States, (1971), Justice Hugo Black wrote, "Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government."

It's time for the Washington press corps to start acting more like a free and independent press in order to properly hold government accountable to the American people.

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