Chilling Effects: James Clapper Tells Congress That Journalists Are Ed Snowden's 'Accomplices'

from the wtf? dept

While there have been some occasional nutty attempts to paint journalists reporting on the documents that Ed Snowden revealed as being somehow legally at risk for doing so, for the most part, US officials have recognized that we do respect the freedom of the press in this country. This has been in stark contrast to the UK, where a whole investigation is ongoing into The Guardian’s role in reporting on the documents. However, that changed this morning, when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee to deliver his “Worldwide Threat Assessment.”

In his prepared statement, Clapper made it clear that he views the journalists who have copies of the documents as “accomplices” to Snowden — who has been charged with violating the Espionage Act. As he said:

Snowden claims that he’s won and that his mission is accomplished. If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed to prevent even more damage to U.S. security.

While some may claim that this is just a passing phrase, this is a written statement from James Clapper to Congress, meaning it was vetted many, many, many times, and the word choices are clear and specific. As Glenn Greenwald has noted, the implication is not at all subtle. The Obama administration has now officially stated that it views journalists reporting on Snowden documents as “accomplices” to a crime:

Who, in the view of the Obama administration, are Snowden’s “accomplices” The FBI and other official investigators have been very clear with the media that there is no evidence whatsoever that Snowden had any help in copying and removing documents from the NSA.

Here, Clapper is referring to “accomplices” as those who can “facilitate the return of the remaining” documents. As Snowden has said, the only ones to whom he has given those documents are the journalists with whom he has worked. As has been publicly reported, the journalists who are in possession of thousands of Snowden documents include myself, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman/The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica.

Is it now the official view of the Obama administration that these journalists and media outlets are “accomplices” in what they regard as Snowden’s crimes? If so, that is a rather stunning and extremist statement. Is there any other possible interpretation of Clapper’s remarks?

That is absolutely crazy. Even more ridiculous is that ODNI’s public affair director more or less confirmed the point:

The office’s public affairs director Shawn Turner said in an email that “director Clapper was referring to anyone who is assisting Snowden to further threaten our national security through the unauthorized disclosure of stolen documents related to lawful foreign intelligence collection programs.”

Of course, just last year (prior to the Snowden leaks), there was a bit of a scandal when it was revealed that the DOJ was claiming to courts that certain journalists were accomplices in order to spy on them to get access to their sources. That controversy resulted in Attorney General Eric Holder promising new guidelines to stop targeting journalists. And, just today, Holder told Congress that those new rules are already in effect.

Clapper’s choice of words here was deliberate. Even if the government doesn’t go after any of the journalists with Snowden’s documents, the message today’s statement made is loud and clear: we can go after you and charge you criminally. And that’s an incredibly chilling message in a country that is supposed to respect the freedom of the press.

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Comments on “Chilling Effects: James Clapper Tells Congress That Journalists Are Ed Snowden's 'Accomplices'”

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One Clapper will have to come to terms with is that the Guardian is a BRITISH newspaper, and therefore ONLY subject to BRITISH laws. Neither the Guardian, nor any of its staff are subject to American laws.

The Guardian is not subject to prosecution of the U.S., though the British, last I heard, and looking at whether any of their laws are broken.

That One Guysays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not really that shocking at all, the UK deported someone over for copyright infringement, shipping over someone who’s helped air out the dirty laundry of the US and UK spy agencies and those that support them wouldn’t be surprising at all.

Now, Greenwald getting a trial before being locked up and given a taste of ‘enhanced interrogation’ to get him to hand over the rest of the files, that would be surprising.


Re: Re: Re: Re:

However, Brazil does not have an extradition treaty wiht the United States, so, as long has he stays in Brazil, the US cannot touch him.

It is believed that at least one of the Alcatraz escapees, from 1962, Frank Morris may have settled in Brazil. Morris knew that the U.S. had no extradition treaty with Brazil.

That One Guysays:

When you’re out Nixon-ing Nixon himself… yeah, you might be just a titch mad with power.

Also can’t believe they’re still trotting out the ‘…related to lawful foreign intelligence collection programs.’ line, considering pretty much everyone that doesn’t have an invested interest in the continuation of the NSA’s activities seems to be admitting that the programs are anything but ‘lawful’, or at the very least shouldn’t be.


Why should this be surprising?

This is coming from the same folks who think it is okay to, in their official capacity, say things like Mr. Snowden should be hanged and a trial should be skipped, etc.

The people who say this have the capability and huge budgets to do things like this, with no oversight. And they are known to lie to congress and everyone, abuse their positions of power, and ignore the constitution.

So why would now be surprising for tyrant wannabees to suggest that journalists are accomplices?

That One Guysays:

Re: Re: Why should this be surprising?

‘tyrant wannabees’

People in positions of great power, answerable to no-one(if they were, it would have happened by now), willing and able to do whatever they feel like… I’m not quite sure ‘wannabees’ is appropriate there, though the tyrant bit certainly fits.


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why should this be surprising?

A tyrant (Greek τύραννος, tyrannos), in its modern English usage, is a ruler of a horrible and oppressive character[1] who is an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution, and/or one who has usurped legitimate sovereignty. A tyrant usually controls almost everything.

Let’s see…does Snowden tick any of those boxes?
No. At absolute worst, he may (may!) have broken a law, but that would make him a criminal. If you still want to label him a tyrant then, that would mean labelling all criminals as tyrants also.


Re: Re: Re:2 Re: Re: Re: Re: Why should this be surprising?

You don’t think all of those big corporate defense contractors that get fat defense contracts paid out of the NSA budget with people like Rogers, King, and Feinstein don’t have a say in what is going on? If the NSA didn’t make them happy all that whopping budget they have goes bye bye and people like Rogers, King, and Feinstein start criticizing the NSA instead of defending them because they are paid to.


Re: Re: Why should this be surprising?

its not at all surprising, NSA has been waiting for this day for awhile, Snowden was going to fuck it up, the papers were going to fuck it up, and go too far. Now that information that is really sensitive, and not related to internal US mete-data, as soon as some idiot made a mistake and release information, that goes too far, then NSA has all the ammo it needs to screw Snowden to the wall.

You talk about oversight, what oversight was applied to what Snowden stole? or what the news papers releases from those stolen documents?

it might of been considered ‘honorable’ for Snowden to show how Americans meta-data is collected (actually already known), but to make available to the public (via newspapers) operational information and names of key people in operations is too far, that will annoy a lot of normal people who would of otherwise have been on your side.


Re: Re: Re: Re: Why should this be surprising?

“You talk about oversight, what oversight was applied to what Snowden stole? or what the news papers releases from those stolen documents?”

uh, his concience, which traitors like Barack, Clapper, Feinstein, and Alexander seem to be lacking especially when you consider the following from 5 U.S. Code ? 3331 – Oath of office
“An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: ?I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.? This section does not affect other oaths required by law. “

Or the presidential Oath of Office…
“Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:? ?I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.?

Many would indicate that quite a few folks involved with the current NSA scandal have broken their oaths.


Re: Re: Re: Re: Why should this be surprising?

Prove that the name of a “key” person in an operation was revealed. I saw the name of what is likely some training person that put together training materials two years ago about how a particular surveillance program worked. I didn’t see anything about a key person in any operation.


Re: Re:

Well, that’s basic numerology. Start with NSDAP, then take letters according to the Constitutional Amendments fascists want to see pulled.

That gets you the NSA. Of course, I am being facetious here: the NSA cannot really be compared to the NSDAP since it not a political party and rather serves the function of the Gestapo.


Re: Re:

Well no you can’t. Snowden is living in Russia and the US does not have an extradition treaty with Russia. Sure, the US could send in some sort of squad to kidnap him or fly a drone over to assassinate him but that would violate all sorts of international laws. Violating the law to punish an alleged lawbreaker is…well…kinda missing the point, don’t you think?


Anyone on that short list of collaborators needs to...

…be real careful if they do any journalism in areas of the world where the US or its allies are operating armed drone aircraft. The current regime has already demonstrated its willingness to assassinate its own citizens without due-process, a trial, or likely even an indictment, so I guess a few more “criminals”, some red-coats, or some kraut collaborators being turned in to pink mist with a Hellfire missile would be no big deal either.


Re: Re: Anyone on that short list of collaborators needs to...

Obama has already ‘accidentally’ ordered several drone strikes on journalists not caring whether or not the person they claimed to be after was present or not.

This is how we get so many ‘xxxxx leader of XXXX organizatio is dead’ but it later turns out to be a pakistani wedding etc in which a journalist/publisher opposed to Obama just ‘happened’ to be present…..(and dead center target for the drone’s missiles)


Funny how it never occurs to Clapper that the NSA stole all that data. IT’S ILLEGAL. No amount of claiming it is legal will make it so.

What Clapper really wants along with the administration is to shut up the leaks. They are embarrassing to an agency that has went beyond it’s mandate. I distinctly recall Senator Wyden stating:

When the American people find out how their government has interpreted the Patriot Act, they are going to be stunned and they are going to be angry.?

Well, they’ve found out and true to his words, we are. No amount of threat will make that go away. The NSA’s mandate is not domestic, it’s foreign. I can not twist that in any way to come out to be legal to collect the metadata (if that is all they do which is certainly at this point open for speculation) of the domestic phone calls and internet communications of the average American. In fact I’m having a real hard time understanding exactly why it is the NSA and not the FBI doing this. Not that it would be any more acceptable if they were.

Clapper deserves to be fired from his job for lying to congress or if you wish for lying to the American public. But the buck shouldn’t stop there either. This needs to go both up the line and down the line removing all who approved the various things the NSA is doing as well as those who authorized this. I understand that the Patriot Act was done during a time of great stress and a haste to show they were doing something. The results of that haste and how poorly it was thought out and handled are apparent today.

It is time to remove the real enemies of the people and they appear to come from inside our own government.


The office’s public affairs director Shawn Turner said in an email that ?director Clapper was referring to anyone who is assisting Snowden to further threaten our national security through the unauthorized disclosure of stolen documents related to lawful foreign intelligence collection programs.?

Since the programs the have thus far been revealed are unconstitutional, they are unlawful and thus there are no accomplices.

BTW, why is Clapper not in jail for contempt of Congress yet? That one is unlawful.

Internet Zen Mastersays:


Hold on a minute.

What exactly would they be criminally charging Greenwald et al. with, since Snowden clearly was able to do this alone. I mean, they can’t exactly arrest the reporters for publishing articles on the NSA documents. They lost that battle back in Nixon’s day against the New York Times over the Pentagon Papers. So what exactly would they be criminally charging these “accomplices” (the reporters) for again?


“Snowden claims that he’s won and that his mission is accomplished. If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed to prevent even more damage to U.S. security.”

And no mention of rights violations again i see, always seem to forget that bit dont they


I did see a “homebrew” dramatization once where Snowden tried to get a reporter for a Hong Kong newspaper to take the story. Had they chosen to run in, that would have ONLY been subject to CHINESE laws, since Hong Kong is a territory of China. Had this Hong Kong newspaper ran the story, they would have been not subject to any U.S. laws

The folks at that Hong Kong paper, had they ran it, would have been not subject to any U.S. laws, as the U.S. would have had NO jurisdiction over a newapaper in China.

FM HIltonsays:

One wrong

Perhaps Mr. Clapper would like to reassess his statement.

Because I’m pretty sure the NSA broke some pretty heavy-duty laws in the process of stealing all of our data.

Including the one that means we are allowed our privacy, and illegal search and seizure. 4th Amendment and all that crap, you know. What about the right to confront one’s accusers, which is violated with the National Security Letter? Due process? What about that one?

There’s no law above the Constitution, even one that Mr. Clapper would like to invoke on demand.

Or does it not occur to him that there are more important laws to be obeyed than the NSA’s heavy-handed Big Brother act.

Perhaps they should all read the document, it might surprise them that they’re the ones actually breaking the law, and Clapper is actually suggesting scrapping the 1st Amendment as well.

It was written a long time ago, true, but the words and beliefs behind it have never gotten old.

Androgynous Cowherdsays:

What "lawful" collection programs?

The office’s public affairs director Shawn Turner said in an email that ?director Clapper was referring to anyone who is assisting Snowden to further threaten our national security through the unauthorized disclosure of stolen documents related to lawful foreign intelligence collection programs.

How convenient for Snowden and the reporters, then, that the collection programs they’re exposing have been found by PCLOB and multiple judges to be not lawful.


I don’t know why anyone is surprised by this, when pretty much everyone in the government and associated agencies has very clearly demonstrated that the Constitution means nothing to them.

In fact, can we drop the pretense that it somehow limits what the government can do? Who’s going to impose any consequences on them? The courts? Most of them side with the government and if they don’t, the government either just claims some bullshit reason for why they don’t have to comply or they ignore the court’s decision completely. If the case somehow makes its way to the supreme court, the chances are about 90% that the yes-man judges will rule in the government’s favor.

The American people? What are they going to do, vote them out of office? They’ll just take high-paying corporate jobs and be replaced by interchangeable politicians who are just as corrupt, if not more so. It’s not like you can believe anything they say during their campaign. Widespread protests? Hello martial law and the start of a military dictatorship.

Face it, the US government is hopelessly broken. They have virtually no limits on what they can do and short of armed revolution, there’s nothing anyone can do to change that.


Remind me again WHY THE HELL does he still have a job after lying to Congress? What message does that send to future NSA employees? That they can just lie with impunity to Congress and get away with it, maybe even with a salary increase by the end of the year?

Christ. If Congress is serious about uncovering this mess and also future messes like these, where the agency is committing illegal crimes without telling Congress about it, then it better damn punish the people responsible already. Otherwise nothing will ever change.



What a lot of the people in the states that are whining about the newspaper are forgetting is that the Supreme Court ruled that news papers have the right to publish in the pentagon papers trial

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.”
?Justice Black[26]


Re: Re: re

What a lot of the people in the states that are whining about the newspaper are forgetting is that the Supreme Court ruled that news papers have the right to publish in the pentagon papers trial

And if such a case were tried today, the Supreme Court would probably rule that the press had no right to publish such documents.


Free to write what you want

Not to preach, but I need preamble to make my point.

Freedom of the press and of speech gives the right to write about anything and let society decide whether they wish to read.

Freedom of the press does not grant the right to possess property of another taken against their will or the right of refusal to return the property.

Anyone holding copies of documents not yet released has the freedom to write anything further about them that they wish.

The Clapper statement does not limit what members of the press can say about the documents, it asks for them back. Enough has already been said about the absurdity of that idea.

The press don’t have immunity. They’re people subject to not only the rights they’re given but also the boundaries imposed on all of society. Possession of stolen goods is a topic covered by the boundaries of our laws.

No matter what anger exists toward the practices exposed, we shouldn’t overly generalize the protections granted to journalists because we abhor the related events.

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