As I do every weekday evening, last night I poured a glass of wine and sat down to watch Chris Hayes pontificate on the issues of the day. As usual, Chris provided many reality-based insights in each segment of his program. However, I found his closing commentary concerning double standards for journalists reporting on government leaks to be confusing.
Hayes tried to draw a parallel between Barbara Starr’s report about terrorists changing their communication methods due to leaked US government surveillance tactics and Glenn Greenwald’s report about Edward Snowden’s leaked NSA classified programs.
I could find little commonality in the actions taken by the two reporters. Apparently Chris Hayes based his comparison on the reactions expressed by some people after the reports were published. He said:
“I haven’t heard anyone call for legal action against Barbara Starr as there has been against Glenn Greenwald.”
He went on to say that he hadn’t seen,
“..hit pieces on her personal life though that is precisely what is happening to Glenn Grennwald.”
Chris closed his commentary by saying:
“It's a problem for this country and for the functioning of our democracy when Glenn Greenwald’s leaked reporting is treated so differently than Barbara Starr when, with Glenn Greenwald, they’re not designed to advance pentagon’s agenda, then we have calls for prosecution, when they are as with Barbara Starr reporting, radio silence.”
Frankly, I find the circumstances behind each of these reports to be completely diffierent. Barbara Starr, a Pentagon correspondent for CNN, was reporting on published activities associated with al Qaeda’s changed communication techniques. Glenn Greenwald, in collaboration with a self-identified leaker (Edward Snowden), disclosed a massive amount of information on government classified programs.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the public’s main concern in regard to Greenwald’s reporting is that he may have stepped out of his role as a journalist and took a supporting role in Snowden’s alleged criminal acts.
Greenwald has stated that he has had several contacts with Snowden over the past few months. The public, and certain members of the press, are rightfully concerned about what took place during those meetings.
After the NSA story broke, the New York Times wrote that Greenwald and photojournalist Laura Poitras met in early March to “share e-mails from Snowden.” And “in late April or early May, he (Greenwald) and Mr. Snowden began to talk over an encrypted chat program.”
Recently Edward Snowden has stated that he took the job with Booz Allen Hamilton in April for the sole purpose of gaining access to NSA classified material. According to an article in Huffington Post, Snowden was “asked if he specifically went to Booz Allen Hamilton to gather evidence of surveillance, he replied: ‘ Correct on Booz’.”
Inasmuch as this took place after (or perhaps during) his initial contact with Greenwald, one has to wonder if Glenn in any way may have encouraged Edward to steal the NSA documents (a criminal act) to be used in his reporting. This, along with questions about Greenwald’s potential support for Snowden's prosecution avoidance, has naturally raised public concern about his actions leading up to (and after) breaking the NSA story.
As I said in my earlier post:
“There hasn’t been any positive evidence to support these allegations, but there has been enough circumstantial evidence to allow journalists to ask the questions.”
The circumstances in Barbara Starr’s reporting are quite different. The public and the press have not found any indication of potential Starr complicity in an alleged criminal act.
By calling for criminal prosecution and publishing personal attacks against Greenwald, some public officials and pundits have crossed an ethical line.
However, reporters seeking answers to questions regarding the alleged non-journalistic actions taken by Glenn Greenwald are certainly acting within their rights under the First Amendment.