By Drew MacKenzie
Freelance journalist Glenn Greenwald has flatly denied the allegations of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers that he’s selling U.S. surveillance secrets stolen by fugitive Edward Snowden.
The Michigan Republican claimed on Tuesday during a committee hearing that Greenwald is receiving payments from news organizations worldwide for the intelligence secrets that Snowden had illegally taken while working for the National Security Agency.
“A thief selling stolen material is a thief,” said Rogers. “For personal gain, he’s now selling his access to information.”
But Greenwald, who once worked for The Guardian in Britain, said that he’s giving hisservices to foreign news agencies as a journalist and that he’s not, as Rogers suggested, “fencing stolen material.”
He said in an interview, “I’m never selling documents. I don’t get money and give them documents, like, ‘Hey, nice doing business with you.’
“We do the reporting first I vet the stories. We come with the story already formed. We work on drafts of the story. We always edit the story. We have approval rights.”
Greenwald, who works with the help of other freelancers, said that he is careful to make sure that he has signed freelance contracts with various agencies before filing his Snowden stories to ensure that he’s seen as a journalist rather than a source.
“If I went around and reported on this without a freelance contract or a freelance fee paid, the government would say I’m acting as a source and not a distributor of the documents,” Greenwald said. “I never work with any foreign media outlet without any kind of agreement. I have to do it that way. If I don’t, they would make other accusations.”
Politico noted that in the past sources have been prosecuted for revealing secret data while the U.S government has been reluctant to go after journalists or publishers.
Rogers had attempted during the committee hearing to make a connection between journalism and criminality while being briefed by Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey.
“I I’m a newspaper reporter…and I sell stolen material, is that legal because I’m a newspaper reporter?” Rogers asked. “If I’m hawking stolen, classified material that I’m not legally in possession of for personal gain and profit, is that not a crime?”
But Comey said that if a reporter was “hawking stolen jewelry” it would be a crime, but added that reporting on classified documents was harder to quantify because “it involves a news-gathering function” and “could have First Amendment implications.”
Greenwald pointed out that Roger’s accusations, if they stood up in a court of law, could criminalize the profession of journalism, and in essence the rights of free speech.
The writer, who is also an attorney and civil rights activist, claimed that his contracts are for a “trivial amount.”
He added, “Any journalist who reports on top-secret documents is necessarily getting paid. If you’re going to characterize that as selling documents, you’re necessarily selling documents.”
Greenwald also pointed out that journalist Bart Gellman had written stories for the Washington Post as a freelancer using Snowden’s documents, but Rogers had not accused him of fencing stolen goods.
“How is that any different than what Bart Gellman does?” Greenwald asked. “He’s freelance for the Washington Post and he gets paid per story.”
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