An Incomplete History of Peter King Calling for the Prosecution of Journalists

Representative Peter King, former chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, spent 24 hours opining that the U.S. should prosecute Glenn Greenwald in relation to the NSA stories of last week. On Wednesday night, Greenwald fought back.

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Representative Peter King, former chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, spent the past 24 hours opining that the U.S. should prosecute Glenn Greenwald in relation to the NSA stories of last week.

Here's the key bit, which references a remark the legislator made earlier calling for the prosecution of journalists who publish leaked information:

KING: "Greenwald, not only did he disclose this information, he has said he has names of CIA agents and assets around the world and they're threatening to disclose that. The last time that was done we saw the murder of a station chief in Greece. No right is absolute. And even the press has certain restrictions..."

(Greenwald has denied King's specific claim.)

King added that the prosecution of journalists should be "very targeted, very selective, and certainly a very rare exception." So what's his threshold? Since this isn't the first time King has tried to get the DOJ to go after a journalist for doing his or her job, we have a bit of a clue. 

In 2006, the New York Times published a story on Swift — a secret monitoring program that targeted the finances of terrorist groups. The information sifted through by the government included the records of thousands of Americans. And Peter King was not happy. Soon after the story broke, he announced that he would advocate to "begin an investigation and prosecution of The New York Times - the reporters, the editors and the publisher," in relation to the publication of that story, as he told the Associated Press. And here he is on Fox News, saying much the same thing 

(That video, by the way, was flagged by Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski a few weeks ago)

King went on a rampage again after Wikileaks became a thing, and in 2010 was repeatedly calling for the prosecution of Julian Assange. But Mediaite flagged an instance in which King went further, and once again advocated for the prosecution of the New York Times. This time, his explanation went all the way back to the Pentagon Papers:

"Well, in my mind we should go after both. Let’s go after Assange first, but I called four years ago for prosecution of The New York Times when they disclosed the SWIFT program, which was absolutely essential to America’s anti-terrorist efforts. It caused great harm to the war against terrorism, yet The New York Times went ahead and put it on the front page, was totally irresponsible. Same what they did with FISA, and you know going back to the Pentagon Papers case, in that case I believe five of the judges said even though you cannot stop a newspaper from publishing this material, there’s no reason they cannot be prosecuted for violating the Espionage Act. Justice White in particular said he would’ve had no problem at all prosecuting The New York Times. There is a difference between prior restraint and actual prosecution. Again, I think The New York Times acted disgracefully, irresponsibly, and it’s put American lives at risk."

Of course, King has often had some strong words for media reports he doesn't like before, stopping short of actually calling for journalists to be prosecuted. He wasn't too happy, for instance, with the Pulitzer-prize series of reports by the Associated Press on the NYPD's Muslim spying program.

The Guardian responded to King's latest with a statement to the Huffington Post on Wednesday, noting that they were "surprised and disappointed" by his reaction. They added:

"This is especially troubling in light of comments from Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General who stated: 'As long as I am attorney general, we will not prosecute any reporter for doing his or her job.,'"

As for Greenwald, the Guardian reporter responded more broadly to King's campaign to get him prosecuted with what looks like a reference to King's past support of the IRA:

And on Wednesday night, after what he told The Atlantic Wire was a full 24 hours of travel as Edward Snowden re-emerged, Greenwald took to the airwaves to respond to questions about King's non-stop statements — twice:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.