There is undoubtedly a significant body of opinion out there which holds the entirely colorable view that Glenn Greenwald is some kind of traitor, and/or should be prosecuted for something or other. I do not share that view. But many people have it.
Recently, I’ve noticed a mini trend. The view, or one of its variants, appears in some kind of a media outlet, often in the form of a question. The question might be asked by David Gregory, on the TV, or by Edward Jay Epstein, in the WSJ — or it might just be clumsily alluded to by Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC.
Whenever this happens, a mob of commentators engages in a massive shoot-the-messenger campaign: Gregory and Epstein and Sorkin and NBC and the WSJ (but, curiously, not CNBC, that I’ve seen) start being accused of monstrous journalistic malfeasance. How dare they suggest that a journalist, who was simply doing his job, might have broken the law in doing so?
I hate to say it, but this seems like attempted censorship to me. It is entirely possible that a journalist, doing his job, broke the law in doing so. Lots of people, in fact, believe that Greenwald did break the law. It’s an important question, and it’s something people are talking about. And it would be unethical for the media to put that question under blackout just because it affects their own industry in an uncomfortable way.
Personally, I do not believe that Greenwald broke the law. But it’s not like he’s short of defenders who are happy to explain at length why his actions are heroic. No one is censoring them. Journalistic outlets should be able to ask difficult questions — including questions which might have nasty consequences for the practice of journalism. And other journalists should be less quick to attack them for doing so. If the debate over Greenwald doesn’t happen in the open, that ultimately plays right into the hands of those who would criminalize him.