Edward Snowden, the noted NSA whistleblower, last night spoke up in defense of his partner in…crime? Concern is growing that journalists who use leaked documents are starting to be pursued more aggressively as criminals.
Snowden fled the country after he revealed the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance program. Glenn Greenwald worked with Snowden, wrote about the leaks for the Guardian in 2013 and won a Pulitzer. See the whole thing play out in the documentary, CitizenFour. That won an Oscar.
Greenwald is an American based in Brazil, where he writes for The Intercept Brazil. Last week, prosecutors in Brazil charged him with cybercrimes for publishing information from government cell phone messages. He joins Julian Assange of Wikileaks in facing criminal charges not for leaking information, but for distributing it.
In a Washington Post column posted Sunday, Snowden argues:
The legal theory used by the Brazilian prosecutors — that journalists who publish leaked documents are engaged in a criminal “conspiracy” with the sources who provide those documents — is virtually identical to the one advanced in the Trump administration’s indictment of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange in a new application of the historically dubious Espionage Act.
The Obama administration was willing to go after whistleblowers, but not reporters, he writes.
When I came forward in 2013 to reveal the global mass surveillance scandal, I understood these unwritten rules. As the same Glenn Greenwald patiently listened to me explain the classified evidence detailing the government’s crimes, everyone in the room knew — or we thought we knew — that as the original source of these disclosures, the consequences for our little truth-telling project would be mine alone.
Both Assange and Greenwald have alienated some of their natural allies. Assange released Democratic Party emails during the 2016 election and Greenwald has appeared on Fox News to criticize press coverage of the Trump-Russia links. Greenwald’s publication The Intercept- parent to the Brazilian edition– admits to failing to protect the identity of an important whistleblower.
Snowden describes both Assange and Greenwald as “polarizing figures.”
Yet the charges against each of these men have been widely recognized for what they are: efforts to deter the most aggressive investigations by the most fearless journalists and to open the door to a precedent that could soon still the pens of even the less cantankerous. In the hours after each set of charges was announced, dozens of civil liberties groups and publishers came forward to denounce them and to decry the chilling effect they were intentionally engineered to produce.