The PJ Tatler

King: Reporters Should be Punished for Writing About Classified Information

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is continuing his advocacy for punishment of the reporters involved in publishing the stories about NSA surveillance programs.

King told CNN yesterday that Edward Snowden, the contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton who leaked the information to the Guardian and Washington Post, is “a defector or traitor — I guess take your pick.”

“What he’s done is incredible damage to our country. He’s going to put American lives at risk. I don’t know how he can live with himself. A traitor is as good as a term as any. I think he’s violated the Espionage Act. In my mind, yes, that would make him a traitor, yes,” he said.

The former Homeland Security Committee chairman said the “general” harm from the leaks “is that al-Qaeda and its allies now know …what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”

“They were not aware of all the details that are out there, and they monitor everything we do on a day to day basis. They were not aware — or could not have been aware of the number of details that have come out, and that to me is certainly putting American lives at risk by giving the enemy such detail about what we are doing that enables them to adjust their tactics and strategies, and that is very damaging to America,” he said.

Snowden’s whereabouts are unknown since he checked out of a Hong Kong hotel this week.

King said if the reporters involved “willing knew that this was classified information” they should be subjected to punishment.

“I know the issue of leaks, I think something on this magnitude, there is an obligation both legal, I believe, against a reporter disclosing something, which would so severely compromise national security. As a practical matter, I guess there have been in the past several years, a number of reporters who have been prosecuted. So the answer is yes,” he said.

King said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee in March that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect data on millions of Americans, should say “we’re not collecting information on individuals. We’re collecting information on phone numbers. I realize that’s a technicality.”

“This has already been discussed in the classified setting,” he said. “When you’re asked something in public about something so classified and so sensitive, it really put the director in an unwinnable position.”