Saturday, September 24, 2016

261.1 - Outrage of the Week: Washington Post wants its own source in prison

Outrage of the Week: Washington Post wants its own source in prison

There has been a move developing to call for President Obama to use his pardon power before he leaves office and pardon Edward Snowden.

Personally, I have three reactions. But before that, let's get the legal jargon out of the way. Technically, Snowden can't be pardoned because that is legal forgiveness for something of which you already have been convicted. What he can get is a type of executive amnesty, which would have the same result of freeing him from prosecution. In any case, the word "pardon" serves as a convenient shorthand.

Okay with that aside, my reactions: One, I'd love to see such a pardon happen; two, I can't imagine it will as Obama has neither the inclination nor the guts to do any such thing; and three, the person I'd really like to see pardoned is Chelsea Manning.

But what I want to get to here is that there were four main media outlets that received from Edward Snowden secret NSA documents about massive government spying on Americans, documents which those media outlets made their own editorial judgments about what parts to publish.

Those four are The Guardian in the UK, the New York Times and the Washington Post in the US, and the online magazine The Intercept. Three of those outlets - the Guardian, the Times, and the Intercept - have called for such a pardon.

But on September 18, the Washington Post published an editorial which not only rejected the idea of a pardon, it explicitly demanded that Snowden stand trial on charges of espionage.

In doing so, notes Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, the Washington Post has achieved an ignominious feat in US media history: It has become the first-ever paper to explicitly call for for the criminal prosecution of its own source - a source on whose back the paper won and eagerly accepted a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

The editorial was particularly critical of the revelations about the PRISM program, the one that allows the NSA to suck up as much internet traffic as it can get its hands on, hyperbolically claiming the revelation put lives and national security at risk.

But as Greenwald pointedly notes, it was not Edward Snowden who sent that information out into the world, it was the news editors of the Washington Post, who chose to print in on the front page. Snowden was totally uninvolved in that decision as well as all the other editorial decisions made in any of the outlets, because he specifically stated in providing the information that he did not trust himself to make the editorial decisions as to what should be printed and what should be withheld.

But it is Snowden and only Snowden who the editors of the Post would have pay a price.

In fairness and for complete accuracy, I have to note that the news and editorial departments of the Washington Post are separate and those on the news side of the paper remain proud of their work on the NSA documents.

But that makes the editorial - the institutional voice of the paper - no less a disgrace, no less a betrayal of its own source and its own staff, no less an assault on investigative reporting, no less a repudiation of whistle-blowers, no less offensive, no less an outrage.

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