I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Does Obama administration view journalists as Snowden's "accomplices"? It seems so.

(updated below)

James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, appeared today before the Senate Intelligence Committee, his first appearance since outright lying to that Committee last March about NSA bulk collection. In his prepared opening remarks, Clapper said this:

Who, in the view of the Obama administration, are Snowden's "accomplices"? The FBI and other official investigators have been very clear with the media that there is no evidence whatsoever that Snowden had any help in copying and removing documents from the NSA.

Here, Clapper is referring to "accomplices" as those who can "facilitate the return of the remaining" documents. As Snowden has said, the only ones to whom he has given those documents are the journalists with whom he has worked. As has been publicly reported, the journalists who are in possession of thousands of Snowden documents include myself, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman/The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica.

Is it now the official view of the Obama administration that these journalists and media outlets are "accomplices" in what they regard as Snowden's crimes? If so, that is a rather stunning and extremist statement. Is there any other possible interpretation of Clapper's remarks?

UPDATE: In response to media inquiries about what Clapper meant when he referred to "accomplices", a spokesman for the DNI's office, Shawn Turner, is saying this:
"anyone who is assisting Edward Snowden [to] further harm our nation through the unauthorized disclosure of stolen documents." (Turner declined to be more specific when asked if that included journalists.)
Turner may be reluctant to admit it, but that essentially dispels all doubt - if there was any - that Clapper was publicly accusing journalists who publish Snowden documents of being "accomplices" in his "crimes". That a top-level Obama official is publicly accusing journalists of criminality for their journalism seems like fairly big (though unsurprising) news.