Nel's New Day

June 29, 2013

Gregory Accuses Journalist of ‘Aiding and Abetting’

When Tim Russert was the host of NBC’s Sunday morning political show, Meet the Press, he was so respected that the network added his name to the name of the program. Moved from chief of the NBC News’ Washington bureau to take this leadership in 1991,Russert moved the program’s length from 30 minutes to an hour and initiated in-depth interviews following his extensive research. Russert used old quotes or film clips inconsistent with the guests’ more current statements and then ask them to clarify their positions. In 2008, the year he died, Time named Russert one of the most 100 influential people in the world.

After his death, the respected Tom Brokaw acted as an interim appointment before David Gregory became the permanent host. His conservative bias was obvious from the beginning when he interviewed Mark Sanford, the South Carolina governor just come back from Argentina, that he called the Appalachian Trail. The media had been clear about his lying to the state and disappearing without leaving anyone in charge. Gregory promised Sanford that his coming on his new show “puts all of this to rest” because “it allows [Sanford] to frame the conversation how [he] really wants to … and then move on.”

I confess that I watch Meet the Press because the re-run is at 11:00 Sunday night, and it puts me to sleep. Yet he frequently annoys me, for example when he gives Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) a pass for his creating scandals just to bring down the president. Last Sunday, Gregory brought a great deal of well-deserved criticism down on him for his question at the end of an interview with Glenn Greenwald.

After discussing Greenwald’s involvement with Edward Snowden, the man declared either a hero or a traitor for telling the world that NSA is collecting metadata on all U.S. citizens, Gregory finished with this question: “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”

Greenwald replied that it was “pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies,” and that there was no evidence to back up Gregory’s claim that he had “aided” Snowden. Gregory replied that “the question of who’s a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you’re doing,”

Frank Rich, respected investigative reporter and writer for The New York Times for almost three decades shredded Gregory and his accusations.

“Is David Gregory a journalist? As a thought experiment, name one piece of news he has broken, one beat he’s covered with distinction, and any memorable interviews he’s conducted that were not with John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Dick Durbin, or Chuck Schumer. Meet the Press has fallen behind CBS’s Face the Nation, much as Today has fallen to ABC’s Good Morning America, and my guess is that Gregory didn’t mean to sound like Joe McCarthy (with a splash of the oiliness of Roy Cohn) but was only playing the part to make some noise. In any case, his charge is preposterous.

“As a columnist who published Edward Snowden’s leaks, Greenwald was doing the job of a journalist–and the fact that he’s an ‘activist’ journalist (i.e., an opinion journalist, like me and a zillion others) is irrelevant to that journalistic function. If Gregory had integrity and guts, he would have added that the journalist Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, who published the other set of Snowden leaks (and arguably more important ones), aided and abetted a crime. But it’s easier for Gregory to go after Greenwald, a self-professed outsider who is not likely to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and works for a news organization based in London.

“Presumably if Gregory had been around 40 years ago, he also would have accused the Times of aiding and abetting the enemy when it published Daniel Ellsberg’s massive leak of the Pentagon Papers. In any case, Greenwald demolished Gregory on air and on Twitter (“Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?”). The new, incoming leadership of NBC News has a golden opportunity to revamp Sunday morning chat by making a change at Meet the Press. I propose that Gregory be full-time on Today, where he can speak truth to power by grilling Paula Deen.”

Activist Carl Gibson asked why there should be reporters if those who report on leaked government secrets are labeled as criminals. As all of us know, the drive to sell advertising has overcome much of news reporting, but even worse, corporations own almost all the media now.

Follow the money. Meet the Press is sponsored by Boeing, that owns NSA contractor Narus, an Israeli company that makes the rapid interception technology used by the NSA. Boeing is also a member of the corporate coalition for “Fix the Debt,” a sham organization funded by Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson. That organization hope to destroy Social Security and Medicare, which may explain why Gregory has framed the decimation of those two programs as the best way to deal with the country’s debt. Gregory has never mentioned that companies like Boeing pay a “negative” federal income tax.

When journalists discovered that the Obama administration had seized phone records of AP reporters without their knowledge, fellow journalists were incensed. Yet Gregory has joined the intimidation of journalists by asking Greenwald if he is a criminal.

David Sirota on Salon asked more questions. Mother Jones’ David Corn asked why Gregory had not addressed the same question to reporters at the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Bloomberg News after they, too, publicized similar leaks.

Trevor Trimm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation asked if Gregory himself should be prosecuted because “when interviewing Greenwald, he repeated what government officials told him about classified FISA opinions.”

A year ago, the New York Times’ Jo Becker and Scott Shane published an article about President Obama’s so-called “kill list” based on leaks of classified information by White House officials. Also an Inspector General report documented then-CIA director Leon Panetta’s possibly illegal release of top secret information to filmmaker Mark Boal for the film Zero Dark Thirty. Should Gregory ask whether the authors of these if they “should be charged with a crime” for publishing secret information?

After National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA Chief Keith Alexander lied in their testimony before Congress, should they be prosecuted for perjury in the same way that major league pitcher Roger Clemens was?

Since the time that Daniel Ellsberg revealed information and now, when Edward Snowden did the same thing, the White House has declared war on any people who tell the public about its covert—and possibly—illegal surveillance. Why has the media transferred its obsessive attention to where Snowden might be at any time instead of the NSA’s crimes against millions of people in the United States. Why do media outlets view the NSA’s actions being legal when they “intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress,” according to the New York Times?

Speaking about Snowden to Jay Leno on his show, Gregory said:

 “You know, there are people who give him credit for sort of forcing this debate out into the country. I think it’s deeply disturbing when someone takes it upon him or herself to decide they’re uncomfortable with some program and they decide they want to undo a government program. I don’t think that’s what the founders of the country envisioned and it’s not a real way to do that.”

I tend to be suspicious of people who channel the “founders of the country,” but it might be useful to read a few of their statements:

 “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”—James Madison

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”—Benjamin Franklin

In the Washington Post, Eric Wemple wrote about the 2001 case Bartnicki v. Vopper in which the Supreme Court ruled that an illegal recording or great public consequence that a media outlet had only received but not participated in the recording of, was protected by the First Amendment. Greenwald did not aid and abet Snowden in obtaining the information or ask him to break the law. Gregory didn’t do his homework when he slandered Greenwald by his accusation that the journalist had “aided and abetted Snowden.”

I’ll watch Meet the Press tomorrow because both Rachel Maddow and Wendy Davis, the woman who filibustered the Texas Senate for almost 12 hours last week, will be on. But also on is Jim DeMint, new leader of the Heritage Foundation ultra-conservative political organization. Hopefully, Gregory won’t decide to pander to DeMint and declare Davis a terrorist the way that one of her GOP colleagues did.

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