June 11th, 2013
10:58 PM ET
10 years ago

King: Journalists in classified leak cases should face punishment

(CNN) - Rep. Peter King said Tuesday night that journalists tied to leaks involving classified programs should be punished along with those who leaked the information.

"If they willingly knew that this was classified information, I think actions should be taken, especially on something of this magnitude," King told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

A New York Republican, King leads the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Terrorism.

His comments come as many in his party have sharply criticized the Department of Justice for seeking a search warrant of a Fox News reporter's emails and phone records following his involvement with a 2009 leak case.

"There is an obligation both moral, but also legal, I believe, against a reporter disclosing something which would so severely compromise national security," he said. "As a practical matter, I guess there have been in the past several years a number of reporters who have been prosecuted under (the Espionage Act)."

After King's interview, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald responded skeptically on Twitter.

As for the National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, King said there's no doubt he should face charges.

"I think what he's done has been incredible damage to our country. It's going to put American lives at risk," he said.

The congressman did not provide specific examples of how the leaked information damages national security, but argued that it helps enemies of the United States.

"Al Qaeda and its allies now know with great exactitude exactly what we're doing," he said, "and how we're doing it."

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soundoff (260 Responses)
  1. brown291

    If a file has classified stamped on it, well its classified for a reason.. No one forced journalist to receive and write the information..secondly what have I gained from hearing about these so called classified leaks...Nada!! When you reveal sensitive data particularly when it pertains to security, you have just given your enemies new light on how to work around what you have in place which brings me to the question, if the enemy is using modern technology to confiscate Intel? What techniques should the U.S. use to gain advantage not only against terrorist attacks? But techniques to solidify and present evidence regarding a regretful situation? Should homeland security wait until an event to work occur? Because there are outcry's regarding privacy my position is....whatever it takes to get the job done, because I am positive China is not issuing a statement among its security team that says "were not going to snoop because its wrong" No they will initiate any technique to maintain an advantage..

    June 12, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  2. bob m

    snowden hero of the month, who's going to be next, can't wait, i love this.

    June 12, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  3. USAPeasant

    Not only dioes the traitor Peter King want to persecute American Hero Snowden, now he wants to also dismantle the first amendment and imprison journalists!!! Wikipedia Peter King, look at this snake's ties to foreign terrorism. CNN you need to get on the side of freedom! Now the Traitor King is coming after you!

    June 12, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  4. jimmy

    defenders of this program say (a) it's ok to spy on citizens cuz they should have known this kind of spying was happening, and (b) it's not ok to reveal the spying cuz al qaeda didn't know it was happening. you can't have it both ways. if we "should have known" we were being spied on, I think al qaeda could have assumed the same thing.

    June 12, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  5. TommytheT

    and we send this fool back to congress how many times?

    June 12, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Rep. King is correct. The man is a traitor, not because he revealed information to a journalist. But because he hacked into computer files that he had no business accessing, copied the information for his personal use, and fled to CHINA.

    If you think that someone who flees the US for China with disks full of national secrets is hero, you really need to have your head examined. This isn't about politics at all. It's about a man who was trusted and became a turncoat for the other side. Traitor, in every sense of the word. BTW, the Russians would like to talk to the kid, too. TRAITOR.

    June 12, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  7. Matt

    Freedom of speech, rights to privacy, freedom of the press..GOP thinks that these are things we can dispense with in these dangerous times, but don't even think about messing with their right to assault weapons."

    Dont forget Holder (Democrat) who went after reporters and the AP. Or the fact that Democrats, including Harry Reid, are lining up to defend the program which is a gross violation to our rights to privacy. Before you blame one party, remember who has the majority this cycle...

    We wouldnt be here if Clapper had not lied under oath as to what the NSA was doing. He outright said that the NSA was not willingly and knowingly collecting data on American citizens.

    June 12, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  8. Tony

    Rep. King also said underground railroad workers should face punishment.

    June 12, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  9. myway

    Eisenhower warned of a military industrial complex taking over politics. I think his worst nightmare has become reality. We're outspending the entire world on our national security, the blanket term to justify any defense related expenditure. Now the Bill of Rights are under attack to avoid accountability even more. It looks like there are thieves in our treasury crying that we're under attack hoping no one will pay attention while the looting is progressing.

    June 12, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  10. Dan5404

    I'm a senior citizen, fairly liberal lifelong Democrat and formerly in media news. But, when it comes to national security I agree with King. I have always thought that anyone that reveals specific national secrets that can risk lives or our personal and national security is guilty of espionage and treason, no matter what their intention. They are not heroes, they are narcissists that have decided that their views take precedence over a duly-elected Congress and Federal judge panel that exercise oversight. He has an option at the ballot box and can start a political campaign against such procedures to oust those that instigated and approved it. Any reporter that participates and publishes such secrets without government approval is knowingly receiving stolen property at the least, and an accessory to espionage at the most. There are more practical ways to open the debate without revealing secrets. They could do articles that indicate the government is conducting a more pervasive surveillance program than anyone knows, and the public should be asking for confirmation from their elected representatives. Apparently most reps and voters agree with the policy. even with the loss of some privacy. It is naïve to think that such surveillance has not been conducted under every president.to varying degrees. It literally means life or death for some people, such as covert operatives or troops in the field.

    June 12, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  11. bob

    I agree and the papers chief editor and the publisher should be fine heavily

    June 12, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  12. Robert

    He took a 200+ slide powerpoint presentation, redacted more than 150 slides. Gave only pertinent slides that don't reveal anything regarding national security. He has stated and proved that he had top level clearance, and this was not hacked information. Where are people getting misinformed from?

    June 12, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  13. gee

    Publishing known stolen information (from) documents (secret or NOT) makes the publisher just as guilty as if the publisher had stolen the (information). Accessory after the fact (as in murder) or before the fact (failure to report a specified crime) are punishable except in this corrupt journalistic world where they think the constitution gives them the right to commit crimes.

    June 12, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  14. Rudy NYC


    In response to plain&simple.......actually I disagree with Rep. KIng, but the fact that he is Republican and isn't in line with what most Republicans believe, doesn't that show that Republicans have the ability to think their own thoughts unlike the Democrats.
    Wrong. King's opinion is what most Republicans believe. It's against what Libertarians on both the right and the left believe in, which is woefully naïve and misguided most of the time, IMO.

    June 12, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Matt wrote:

    Dont forget Holder (Democrat) who went after reporters and the AP. Or the fact that Democrats, including Harry Reid, are lining up to defend the program which is a gross violation to our rights to privacy. Before you blame one party, remember who has the majority this cycle...
    Holder was simply conducting the investigation that the Congress, specifically congressional Republicans led by Sen. McConnell, had demanded of him. He followed the letter of law: by obtaining court approved warrants, etc. The trail led to the AP and other places. '

    Republicans wanted the trail to lead to the White House, so they're making a big fuss to distract from the truth that there is no trail to the White House. There's only the trail that Republicans are trying to manufacture through insinuation and innuendo.

    June 12, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. cbp

    Rep. King does like to be in the spotlight and he is often the first one to speak out. I rarely agree with him but after reading about MR. Snowden I am completely baffled by his reasoning. He states he want to expose criminality but he has not chosen to reveal his evidence. He will do so by bits and pieces and keep us all wanting more information from him. Evidently, Mr. Greenwald has the information because Mr. Snowden "sought him out." It is interesting that as soon as someone blows the whistle they automatically have credibility.

    After 9/11 we wanted our government to delve deeper to find out who might be terrorists. Congress passed laws giving agencies the right to gather info on Americans and others. The law has been tweaked but it is still there. Is there anyone who believes that we are free from terrorists? Are there people who wish to destroy this country and what it stands for? Could we possibly have any citizens who would use terror to change the way we live?

    A month ago people were angry that the US did not have enough info on the Boston Marathon Bombers. The government did not snoop enough on these citizens. After all the Russians told us that one brother might be a Jihadist. They got the info by listening and snooping of course.

    The same questions have been asked before. We say it is okay to get info on some Americans but not on us. Of course, we talk about Hitler, Stalin, and other dictators who "spied" on people. However, they did not stop at gathering info they also arrested people, tortured them and then killed them. They also would have arrested Mr. Snowden as a traitor.

    June 12, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  17. lone

    This from King is an out and out fabrication. I think he should look into the mirror the next time he wants to call someone a traitor.

    "I think what he's done has been incredible damage to our country. It's going to put American lives at risk," he said.

    "Al Qaeda and its allies now know with great exactitude exactly what we're doing," he said, "and how we're doing it."

    June 12, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  18. anchorite

    Sorry, if you are not a cleared individual with an employment contract regulating classified information, you do not have any responsibility to do anything with classified info that falls into your lap except to not deliberately give it to the enemy. It is perfectly legal to put it in your desk or give it to someone else and not tell the ownesr of the info you probbably can't even discover.

    June 12, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  19. Suur Kurat

    The powerful elite who run this country fear the people more than they do the terrorists; however, they use "terrorism" as a means of controlling us.

    They first went after the "terrorists" and then they came after us.

    June 12, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  20. J. Sidney Fox

    Rep King appears to have forgotten whom he is representing

    June 12, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  21. Name

    The only lives at risk should be our politicians who think this was ok. They should be hung in the streets.

    June 12, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  22. EricBlair

    Hey King! The cleaners called – your brown shirts are ready.

    June 12, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  23. Thatguy371

    This wacky Peter King character needs to just be quiet. He knows nothing of patriotism... just HIS version of it.

    It isn't so widely known (yet), but the U.S.'s ability to PROCESS surveillance data is infantile as compared to the U.S.'s ability to COLLECT surveillance data. And in the meantime, WHO stores it? Will it ALWAYS be securely stored? WHO decides what to do with it? WHAT criteria do they use? The list goes on and on.

    Anyone foolish enough to believe we have nothing to be concerned about with govt collecting all this data on us, is simply fooling themselves. In bringing this issue to light, Snowden has done a great service for we citizens, and he should be thanked.

    June 12, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  24. TheoldChief

    Finally, a politician making sense. I agree with him, but he still needs to be voted out; they all do.
    Prosecute the leakers and the reporters, but be careful. In a case like the Pentagon Papers the Government needed to be outed, but not in this case. So where do you draw the line. Lawbreakers shouldn't be able to use their press passes as a get-out-of-jail-free pass. What's the answer?

    June 12, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  25. joeyjoe

    Great, you trample on everyone's 4th amendment rights with PRISM, now you want to trample on this reporters 1st amendment ones too.

    June 12, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
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