Flynn-Russia Leaks: Highly Illegal & Wholly Justified

Glenn Greenwald talking:

There’s no question that whoever leaked the contents of General Flynn’s telephone calls with the Russian ambassador and other Russian diplomats committed what the law regards as extremely serious crimes. As we all know from the last eight years under President Obama, they—the U.S. government treats it as a criminal act, a felony, to leak information that is deemed classified. In the scheme of what is regarded as criminal in terms of leaks, the most serious or one of the most serious bits of information that can be leaked is what’s called signals intelligence, or information gathered by the NSA or the CIA or other intelligence agencies in terms of eavesdropping on foreign governments. And that’s exactly what got leaked, was information that the NSA and the CIA say that they gathered as a result of targeting Russian officials with eavesdropping. And along the course of that eavesdropping, they happened hear General Flynn’s conversations with those Russian officials. That’s what they claim. It’s possible they actually targeted General Flynn. We don’t know. That’s the claim. And if that is true, what they’re claiming, it means that the leaking of this information is considered a very serious felony. In fact, the law says that it’s not just whoever leaks signals intelligence is guilty of a felony, but anyone who publishes it, too. So, theoretically, it makes the journalists at The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News, all of whom have leaked signals intelligence, guilty of felonies. My view is that the First Amendment’s freedom of the press clause would bar any such prosecutions, but at least under the statute it is a crime.

So then the question becomes: Well, if it’s criminal, is it justified? And my view is the same view that I had for the eight years under President Obama and for the years before that under President Bush, which is that people inside the government who leak classified information that the public has a right to know, even if they’re breaking the law, are acting commendably and justifiably and heroically, and that those people ought to be celebrated and treated as people defending democracy and transparency, and not be treated as criminals. Unfortunately, over the last eight years, Democrats have had a completely different view of people who leak classified information. And the tweet that you just read from President Trump, saying whoever leaked this information are low-life leakers who deserve to be punished, that sounds very, very, very similar to everything I’ve heard from most Democrats over the last eight years as they called for the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning and Thomas Drake and Edward Snowden and the long list of other whistleblowers and leakers that President Obama so aggressively and vindictively prosecuted. But, for me, my view has not changed, which is, when an official as senior as General Flynn lies to the public, which is what he did—he denied publicly that he discussed the issue of sanctions with the Russian ambassador in his December phone call—information that shows that he lied is information that the public has the right to know. And even though I think there are very grave dangers and grave concerns, that I hope we’ll discuss, in terms of what the deep state is doing in trying to destroy the Trump administration, that was duly elected, in this particular case, whoever leaked this information helped the public to understand and to learn exactly how General Flynn lied, and therefore, despite being illegal, highly illegal, I actually think it’s also wholly justified, as I wrote in that piece.
____

Glenn Greenwald
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the founding editors of The Intercept. His recent piece for The Intercept is headlined “The Leakers Who Exposed Gen. Flynn’s Lie Committed Serious—and Wholly Justified—Felonies.”

— source democracynow.org

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