By Brad Friedman on 5/23/2013, 3:40pm PT  

Yesterday, we ran a very short piece arguing that "Fox 'News' and Republicans Were For Prosecuting Journalists Before They Were Against It".

In it, we briefly documented the Obama DoJ's attack on journalists and journalism, as most recently highlighted by the sweeping subpoena of AP reporters' phone records and the naming of Fox "News" reporter James Rosen as an unindicted co-conspirator in order to subpoena his email and much more in the course of a national security leak investigation. We highlighted how these sorts of outrageous attacks on the media were something that the Right had very much approved of under Bush, and even under Obama, at least until it struck a bit too close to home for them, particularly with the latest news about Rosen. Now, of course, Fox and friends claim to be outraged! about it all.

In our report, we cited an excellent recent piece by Constitutional attorney turned UK Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald. In that column, he smartly decried the aggressive actions of the Obama Administration. At the end of his piece, in an update, he dinged the Right for their hypocrisy in this matter. (It was the latter which we generally focused on in our own piece, though we also pointed out how Greenwald has been extraordinarily consistent over the years in his no-holds-barred critique of First Amendment erosions, whether they were carried out by the Bush Administration or the Obama Administration. For his championing of First Amendment rights he has received much partisan criticism over the years, first from Bush loyalists during the Bush Administration, and now from partisan Obama loyalists during the current administration.)

In response to our piece, BRAD BLOG commenter "Billy" went off on a tear against Greenwald, charging that "he has been lying incessantly about the James Rosen story"; that he "has pretty much given up on objectivity and fact-based reporting"; that he is "an opponent of Barack Obama [who] won't let the truth get in the way of that opposition"; and, perhaps most sharply, that he "is now in the same business as [Republican Congressman and U.S. House Oversight Committee Chairman] Darrell Issa."

Setting the invective aside, the main of Billy's critique of Greenwald seems to be that Rosen's original 2009 article at Fox --- the one which resulted in the DoJ naming him as an unindicted co-conspirator and the indictment of Rosen's alleged State Department leak source Steven Jin-Woo Kim --- led to the dangerous exposure of U.S. intelligence gathering operations and assets in North Korea.

Rosen's report on North Korea "presumably made it very easy for them to eliminate the operation," Billy argued, in apparent support of the Obama DoJ's actions. "At worst, this publication may have cost American intelligence sources their lives."

"But Glenn Greenwald, who has pretty much given up on objectivity and fact-based reporting, described Kim's leak to Rosen as a case of communicating 'innocuous information to a journalist - something done every day in Washington.' Clearly it was not," fumed Billy.

[Read "Billy's" initial comment here and scroll down for my own responses to him thereafter.]

We asked Greenwald whether he had yet to reply to the charge that he had "lied" about the Rosen case when describing the reported leaks as "innocuous" and, if not, if he'd like to. He sent us a response to that allegation, which he asked that we publish in full. Happy to. The complete response from Greenwald follows below...

As in initial matter, my favorite strain of commenter is those who say things along the line of: "that Glenn Greenwald sure used to be really great and factual, but then he changed". That "change" invariably occurred right around January 20, 2009, when my criticisms of the very same policies were directed at a beloved Democratic President rather than a GOP President. Strangely, the serious character flaws Obama-loyal progressives claim I have were apparently invisible until Obama became President: they should ask themselves what it says about them that they only recognize such towering flaws of integrity and honesty in a person when he is a critic of a Democratic President, but blind themselves to those flaws as long as the person is criticizing a Republican President.

I should also note the irony of this commenter claiming I'm "lying incessantly" while he then goes on to claim that I've "become a big fan of [Darrell] Issa": a total lie if there ever was one. I've never uttered a positive word about Darrell Issa in my life. Obviously, saying that there are legitimate questions to ask about Benghazi - and there are - does not justify a fabrication of this sort.

As for the "substance" of the commenter's accusations: what I said is 100% accurate. At the time Rosen published his article, barely anybody noticed it. It created almost no furor. Nobody suggested it was a leak that was even in the same universe as the big leaks of classified information over the last decade in terms of spilling Top Secret information into the public domain: the NYT's exposure of the Bush NSA and SWIFT programs, Dana Priest's uncovering of the CIA black site network, David Sanger's detailing of Obama's role in the Stuxnet attack on Iran, etc.

Nor has anyone claimed that this leak resulted in harm to anyone or blew anyone's cover. That's what makes it "innocuous": it's a run-of-the-mill leak that happens constantly in Washington, where government officials give classified information and intelligence reporting to DC journalists, who then print it. That happens all the time. All the time. And it has for decades.

All that's happening here is that Obama followers are doing what Bush followers constantly did to defend their leader: screaming "harm to national security!" to justify secrecy and attacks on the press. But there is no demonstrated harm to national security from this leak and nobody has remotely claimed it's anywhere near the level of leaks that prompted Bush officials threaten to prosecute journalists at the New York Times.

What also happens every day is that investigative journalists do exactly that which James Rosen did here: namely, they work with their sources to try to obtain classified information that they can print. That is the crux of investigative journalists. That's why the New York Times editorial board said that the Obama DOJ is now "threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news"; the ACLU said that this is a case of the Obama DOJ arguing that "simple newsgathering is itself illegal", and former NYT general counsel James Goodale said that this episode shows that "President Obama will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom." Countless other reporters, including Obama-supporting progressives, have said the same thing, such as the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza (Fox/Rosen case is one "in which Obama admin is criminalizing reporting").

The premise of all of those warnings is exactly what I said: what James Rosen did, that the Obama DOJ characterized as a felony, is exactly what investigative journalists do all the time, what they do routinely. Are the NYT Editorial Page, the ACLU, Goodale, Lizza and countless other reporters who are saying the same thing also "lying"? Or is this just a case of an Obama-loyal commenter who can't stand the truth about his beloved leader? To ask the question is to answer it.

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UPDATE 5/24/2013: New, disturbing information is now available on the scope of the DoJ's secret subpeona of Rosen's email. They had attempted to get approval to monitor his account for "many years", if needed. See the UPDATE now added to our original item on this matter for more details...