Committee to Protect Journalists, a respected non-profit organization where I used to work in an entirely different age (at the dawn of the Internet back in 1995-1997), has kept up a stready drumbeat about the supposed "chilling effect" of the mere discussion by law-enforcers, parliamentarians and particularly UK officials about possible espionage charges against journalists related to Snowden's massive leak.
CPJ even came out with an entire report about how the Obama Administration has been the most chilling on free speech, because it has prosecuted the most whistleblowers and searched the most journalists unlawfully. I tend to agree that Obama is a problem, which I think is due to other reasons than CPJ:
1. His socialist belief system -- stealth socialism covered up with the anti-nuclear movement and "community organizing" single-issue politics meant to cover up a more radical aegnda -- which necessitates not only control of the media, but a robust agit-prop campaign (which he has instituted not only with things like the Truth Team in Obama for America/Organizing for Action and the firstname.lastname@example.org, which incites citizens to report on their fellow Americans if they are politically correct.
2. But when the cases involve Iran, I think this is about a concerted pro-Iranian/anti-Israeli faction in the governmentn that Obama tacitly supports and allows to leak.
3. There's also the fact that when you have a left-wing or "progressive" government increasingly moving to the left, those on the hard left and radical movements from left or right see this as an opportunity to lunge and grab as much as they can to weaken the state in general.
But I really think CPJ is disingenuous here today in an editorial in defense of the Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger, and the invocation of "chilling effects," when they can't admit or even mention two really key factors in this story at all:
1. That Rusbridger has revealed agents' names, and has admitted as much. Is CPJ for allowing agents' names to be revealed? Really?
2. That not enough research has been done - because Greenwald bristles and accuses people of suppressing press freedom tendentiously -- about what this hack was really all about -- as I have done in my compendium of history and relationships.
Hence, my answer to CPJ, still in the moderation queue:
I think CPJ has really got caught up in advocacy rhetoric here and isn't reporting the story accurately. There isn't any "chill" on reporting of the Snowden story and the leaking of the stolen classified documents whatsoever. In fact, coverage has been rampant, widespread, and raucous, all over the world, and in fact the Guardian has taken the lead.
Nothing at all has intimidated any journalists as they keep reporting the story in ever-growing hysterical fashion, despite the fact-checking even by their supporters that has forced them to correct story after story.
As for Rusbridger, he lost his chief activist journalist Greenwald and his adversarial helpers Laura Poitras and Jacob Appelbaum, and they've left him to answer for what really the paper indeed has to take accountability for: revealing secret agents' names.
Nowhere in this story do you explain that this is the issue; see this blogger Louise Mensch who has assiduously stayed on the story and points out that Rusbridger does not deny that he revealed agents' names, and also admits that when he sent Bamford over as a mule to the States, there were so many documents that he hadn't read them all and didn't know what was in them.
I don't think adversarial journalists (who should be in a political party doing opposition research rather than credible newspapers) are the ones to draw the line where national security is affected. They aren't honest brokers and good judge; they are the ones that directly benefit from stealing documents, both in reputational enhancement and in cash.
Greenwald kept saying that he wouldn't harm ongoing operations, and yet he has consistently harmed US relations with allies and in act in today's leak, harmed needed espionage operations against Russia, a country where journalists are murdered, which the US lawfuly and rightly cooperated on with Sweden. In fact, most of Greenwald's stories, and the fact that Snowden wound up in Russia with the help of the pro-Kremlin anarchist collective WikiLeaks beg the question
of how much this is really journalism and how much it is a radical political platform duplicitously seeking the journalistic cover.
It's as if journalism gets to excuse any act today and in a liberal democratic society, we cannot question why undemocratically, coercively, and in wildly damaging ways, a few hackers get to decide what is a secret or not.
Where's the journalism on *that*? The press corps has been supremely uninterested in investigating even the most basic obvious holes in the Snowden story, like where he was for weeks at a time in Hawaii or months at a time in Moscow.
Myths like "the US forcing Snowden to Moscow" never get pulled apart by a credulous and adulatory press corps although CPJ should know better:
As with the WikiLeaks story, there's a curious moral blindness to examining honestly the damage of this material -- you come away realizing that in fact there will never be a point when any journalist will ever concede that these leaks are harmful because they are so falsely hysterical about losing press freedom.
You might also have mentioned that the Guardian specifically paid Miranda to serve as a mule, and admitted this recently; that's not journalism.
There's no evidence that the British press has been less zealous in covering Snowden; perhaps they are simply less naive. They seem to have a better sense of Russia's obvious interest here.
If CPJ is going to endlessly claim "chilling effects" where in fact they've never gone into effect, it behooves this previously credible organization to establish just what it would accept as the line dividing publication by media and exposure through espionage or incitement of hacking. What most needs to be probed is whether Greenwald and his comrades gave Snowden a list of materials to seek in his hacking that served their past adversarial advocacy and litigation in the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
Mere journalistic possession of stolen documents isn't an exoneration forever from criminal charges; the manner in which the files are used and the damage they cause can and should be grounds for criminal prosecution. Whatever their public interest role, journalists are not sprinkled with holy water and exempted forever from charges under the rule of law.