Rep. Peter King says journalist Glenn Greenwald should be prosecuted for reporting on the National Security Agency's phone and email data collection program that was leaked to him by former government contractor Edward Snowden.
"Not only did he disclose this information. He has said that he has the names of CIA agents and assets around the world and is threatening to disclose that. The last time that was done in this country, we saw a CIA station chief murdered in Greece," the New York Republican told Fox News Wednesday.
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"No right is absolute. And even the press should have certain restrictions," King added. "I think it should be very targeted, very selective, and, certainly, a very rare exception. But in this case, when we have someone who has disclosed secrets like this and threatens to release more, then to me, yes, legal action should be taken against him.
"This is a very unusual case with life and death implications for Americans," the lawmaker stressed.
Greenwald revealed in an article last week for The Guardian newspaper in Britain that the NSA has been collecting the phone numbers and email contacts of Americans for years as part of a counterterrorism program that was put in place following the 9/11 attacks. The Washington Post also reported on the program based on leaked information it received from Snowden.
But King has not called for any Post reporters, or any other journalists beyond Greenwald, to be hauled into court for writing or publishing classified information.
Asked by Fox News's Meghan Kelly
if there was a difference between Greenwald and James Rosen, the Fox News journalist who was monitored by the FBI for reporting on a leak out of the State Department, King said Rosen "never said he was going to release information that was going to kill Americans."
"He was never going to disclose the names of CIA agents and operatives around the world, the way Greenwald has said that he's threatening to do," King continued.
"That to me is a direct attack against Americans, putting American lives at risk, and to me, no right is absolute. And, obviously, freedom of the press has to be cherished in this country, but in this case where some people are glorifying Snowden, making him a hero and acting as if Greenwald was acting as a legitimate journalist ... to me, that has crossed the line."
Responding to King's remarks, Greenwald accused the congressman of making up false claims about a threatened release of additional classified information.
"I was really staggered that a United States congressman, the [former] chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, actually could go on national television and make up an accusation, literally fabricated out of whole cloth, namely that I have threatened to uncover the names of covert CIA agents, as a way of arguing for my arrest and prosecution inside the United States for the crime of doing journalism," Greenwald told CNN's Anderson Cooper
"It's bad enough to call for that. It's extraordinarily menacing that he did so based on a complete falsehood -- the idea that I threatened that. I did not nor would I ever," he declared.
The Guardian also told the Huffington Post that King's remarks were "especially troubling" in light of recent comments from Attorney General Eric Holder that he would "not prosecute any reporter for doing his or her job."
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The newspaper also drew attention to a Holder statement in which he said he was "troubled that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable."
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