In the midst of Scandal Mania 2013, much of the political world was a little too eager to tie three unrelated stories together: last September’s Benghazi attacks, IRS scrutiny of groups seeking tax-exempt status, and targeting reporters to identify those responsible for national security leaks. Though Republicans pushed the “White House scandals” line aggressively, they only seemed interested in two of the three.
Benghazi, of course, became a political favorite for the GOP, and the Internal Revenue Service became an excuse for all sorts of Republican ideas, but when it came to subpoenas of reporters’ phone logs to root out leakers, GOP lawmakers were indifferent. They loved the idea of a trio of scandals in the abstract, but Republicans were prepared to take a pass on one of the three.
Why? Because, as it turns out, the far-right party actually likes the idea of going after journalists as part of leak investigations. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) argued last night, for example, that the reporters who published the revelations on NSA surveillance should probably face prosecution.
After King explained why he believes the recent NSA leaks pose a grave threat to national security, host Anderson Cooper asked him if he thinks the reporters who break stories off of leaked information should be punished in some way.
“If they willingly knew that this was classified information, I think action should be taken, especially on something of this magnitude,” King said.
“I think on something of this magnitude, there is an obligation both moral but also legal, I believe, against a reporter disclosing something that would so severely compromise national security.”
I realize Glenn Greenwald has some detractors, but I’d like to think reasonable, fair-minded people would agree that he shouldn’t be locked up for doing his job.
Also note, Pete King is not just some random voice expressing an opinion; he’s the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee; he’s the current chairman on the House panel on Counterterrorism and Intelligence; and he’s a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Given this, for the New York Republican to go on national television and raise the prospect of legal penalties for journalists for publishing facts is disconcerting, to put it mildly.
And for the record, as the Huffington Post noted, “It is not illegal to publish classified information in the United States, and no reporter has ever been prosecuted for doing so.”
It would appear King wants to set a new precedent. I’m going to assume that federal law enforcement officials, in this matter, will disappoint the congressman.