Rep. Peter King's History of Calling Media Outlets Treasonous

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 12 2013 4:56 PM

If It's Wednesday, Peter King is Accusing the Media of Treason

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Rep. Peter King (R-NY) arrives at a closed briefing for members of the House of Representatives June 11, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

New York Rep. Peter King, who used to head the Homeland Security Committee in the House, is calling the reporting of the Snowden leaks "treasonous." This is "news," insofar as it's a new quote from a powerful person, but it's also wrong and wholly in character for King. (Actually, the wrongness isn't out of the ordinary for King, either.)

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

What he said: Not only did [Guardian reporter/blogger Glenn Greenwald] disclose this information, he said he has names of CIA agents and assets around the world and threatening to disclose that... I think [prosecuting reporters] should be very targeted and very selective and a rare exception. In this case, when you have someone who discloses secrets like this and threatens to release more, yes, there has to be legal action taken against him.

Well, this is just a lie—Greenwald hasn't "threatened to disclose" the names of CIA assets. He's written and spoken maybe 100,000 words since the story broke (only a few more than he usually utters in a week), and he's never said this. Maybe King is feeling rote, though, because this is always his response to a national security story.

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- In 2010, WikiLeaks published reams of classified cables from diplomats. King (still chairman of Homeland Security) responded with a letter to the Secretary of State arguing that "WikiLeaks engaged in terrorist activity by committing acts that it knew, or reasonably should have known, would afford material support for the commission of terrorist activity," and thus could be prosecuted under RICO statutes. It wasn't prosecuted under RICO statutes.

- In 2006, the New York Times published evidence that the Treasury Department and CIA were tracking international money transfers. King wrote a letter to the DOJ asking for charges, because "we're at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous."

This is why you book Peter King—he will shift the Overton Window and pronounce journalism "treason." Only much later does anyone notice that he was leading an army with no troops. Not even Alberto Gonzales, who'd been open to the theory that journalists could be traitors, followed King's advice. Eric Holder's already said he won't.

UPDATE: The Guardian responds to King:

We are surprised and disappointed by comments from Rep. Peter King R(NY), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, saying "legal action should be taken" against Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald for his reporting on NSA surveillance.

Come on, now: "Surprised"?

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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