There are a couple of problems with David Carr’s column in The New York Times on Glenn Greenwald and the line between journalism and activism.
First, Greenwald isn’t really a close call. He is an opinionated liberal columnist and blogger who works for a large, well-regarded news organization, The Guardian. The key: he’s independent. No advocacy group is paying his salary. If we must draw lines, Greenwald is well on the journalistic side of the divide.
What I really want to see more discussion of, though, is Carr’s assertion that “when it comes to divulging national secrets, the law grants journalists special protections that are afforded to no one else.” What is Carr talking about?
As I explained recently, the Espionage Act, under which Edward Snowden has been charged in the National Security Agency leaks, makes no distinction between leaking classified information and publishing classified information.
The question of whether to prosecute news organizations came up after the Pentagon Papers and again after the revelation of the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping program. U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., has called for journalists to be prosecuted over the Snowden leaks.
Yes, there are limited protections for journalists trying to shield their sources in 49 states. But I don’t think that’s what Carr was referring to. In any case, there are no shield protections at the federal level.
So help me out here. What do you think Carr has in mind?