what a hypocrite glenn is, and what a dangerous position he’s getting himself

The Leakers Who Exposed Flynn Committed Justified Felonies
Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, Feb 14 2017

Pres Trump’s national security adviser Gen Michael Flynn was forced to resign on Monday night as a result of getting caught lying about whether he discussed sanctions in a December telephone call with a Russian diplomat. The only reason the public learned about Flynn’s lie is because someone inside the government violated the criminal law by leaking the contents of Flynn’s intercepted communications. In the spectrum of crimes involving the leaking of classified information, publicly revealing SIGINT is one of the most serious felonies. Journalists (and all other non-governmental citizens) can be prosecuted under federal law for disclosing classified information only under the narrowest circumstances. Reflecting how serious SIGINT is considered to be, one of those circumstances includes leaking the contents of intercepted communications, as defined this way by 18 § 798 of the Federal Code:

Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates … or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes … any classified information … obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

That Flynn lied about what he said to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak was first revealed by the WaPo’s David Ignatius, who has built his career on repeating what his CIA sources tell him. In his Jan 12 column, Ignatius wrote:

According to a senior government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak several times on Dec 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking.

That “senior government official” committed a serious felony by leaking the communication activities of Flynn to Ignatius. Similar and even more extreme crimes were committed by what the WaPo called “nine current and former officials in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls,” who told the paper for its Feb 9 article:

Flynn privately discussed Pindosi sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to Pindostan during the month before Pres Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials.

The NYT, also citing anonymous officials, provided even more details about the contents of Flynn’s telephone calls. That all of these officials committed major crimes can hardly be disputed. In January, CNN reported that Flynn’s calls with the Russians “were captured by routine eavesdropping targeting the Russian diplomats.” That means that the contents of those calls were “obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of a foreign government,” which in turn means that anyone who discloses them or reports them to the public is guilty of a felony under the statute. Yet very few people are calling for a criminal investigation or the prosecution of these leakers, nor demanding the leakers step forward and “face the music” for a very good reason. The officials acted justifiably despite the fact that they violated the law, because the leaks revealed that a high government official, namely Flynn, blatantly lied to the public about a material matter, namely his conversations with Russian diplomats, and the public has the absolute right to know this.

This episode underscores a critical point. The mere fact that an act is illegal does not mean it is unjust or even deserving of punishment. Oftentimes, the most just acts are precisely the ones that the law prohibits. That’s particularly true of whistleblowers who reveal information the law makes it a crime to reveal when doing so is the only way to demonstrate to the public that powerful officials are acting wrongfully or deceitfully. In those cases, we should cheer those who do it, even though they are undertaking exactly those actions that the criminal law prohibits. This Flynn episode underscores another critical point: The motives of leakers are irrelevant. It’s very possible, indeed likely, that the leakers here were not acting with benevolent motives. Nobody with a straight face can claim that lying to the public is regarded in official Faschingstein as some sort of mortal sin. If anything, the contrary is true. It’s seen as a job requirement. Moreover, Flynn has many enemies throughout the intelligence and defense community. Of course, the same is true of Donald Trump. Recall that just a few weeks ago, Chuck Schumer warned Trump that he was being “really dumb” to criticize the intelligence community because “they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

It’s very possible or even likely that the motive here was vindictive rather than noble. Whatever else is true, this is a case where the intelligence community destroyed one of its primary adversaries in the Trump White House by means of strategic and illegal leaks. But no matter. What matters is not the motive of the leaker, but the effects of the leak. Any leak that results in the exposure of high-level wrongdoing as this one did should be praised, not scorned and punished. It’s bizarre to watch this principle now so widely celebrated. Over the last eight years, Obama jas implemented the most vindictive and aggressive war on whistleblowers in all of Pindo history. As Leonard Downie, one of the editors at the WaPo during the Watergate investigation, put it in a special report:

The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration.

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It’s hard to put into words how strange it is to watch the very same people from both parties, across the ideological spectrum, who called for the heads of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Tom Drake, and so many other Obama-era leakers today heap praise on those who leaked the information that brought down Flynn. It’s even more surreal to watch Democrats act as though lying to the public is some grave firing offense. Obama’s DNI, James Clapper, got caught red-handed lying not only to the public but also to Congress about a domestic surveillance program that courts ruled was illegal. Despite the fact that lying to Congress is a felony, he kept his job until the very last day of the Obama presidency.

But this is how political power and the addled partisan brain in Faschingstein functions. Those in power always regard leaks as a heinous crime, while those out of power regard them as a noble act. They seamlessly shift sides as their position in Faschingstein changes. Indeed, while Democrats have suddenly re-discovered the virtues of illegal leaking, Trump-supporting Republicans are insisting that the only thing that matters is rooting out the criminal leakers. Fox News host Steve Doocey and right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham today both demanded to know why the leakers weren’t being hunted, while congressional Republicans are vowing investigations to find the leakers. And Trump himself today, echoing Obama-era Democrats, said that “the real story” isn’t the lies told by his national security adviser but rather the fact that someone leaked information exposing them:

But this is just the tawdry, craven game of Washington. People with no actual beliefs shamelessly take diametrically opposite views on fundamental political questions based exclusively on whether it helps or hurts their leaders. Thus, the very same Democrats who just three months ago viewed illegal leaking as a grave sin today view it as an act of heroic #Resistance. What matters far more than this lowly and empty game-playing is the principle that is so vividly apparent here. Given the extreme secrecy powers that have arisen under the war on terror, one of the very few ways that the public has left for learning about what its government officials do is illegal leaking. As Trevor Timm notes, numerous leaks have already achieved great good in the three short weeks that Trump has been president. Leaks are illegal and hated by those in power (and their followers) precisely because political officials want to hide evidence of their own wrongdoing, and want to be able to lie to the public with impunity and without detection. That’s the same reason the rest of us should celebrate such illegal leaks and protect those who undertake them, often at great risk to their own interests, so that we can be informed about the real actions of those who wield the greatest power. That principle does not change based upon which political party controls the White House. From the creation of The Intercept during the Obama presidency through to today under Trump, a central principle of The Intercept, a key reason it was created, was to enable whistleblowing and report on leaks in the public interest. As our pinned article on our front page says: “If You See Something, Leak Something,” with instructions on how to do that as safely as possible.

One Comment

  1. lobro
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    greenwald is chocolate coated talmudist, it seems they are all when the surface is scratched a bit

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