Washington Post: first newspaper ever to call for prosecution of its own source

The Washington Post was one of the newspapers that participated in the initial Snowden disclosures; Barton Gellman won a well-deserved Pulitzer for his work on them — but now the paper's editorial board have called on the US government to imprison Edward Snowden, making it the first paper in US history to demand the prosecution of its own source, specifically to punish him for bringing them the story they published.

The Post argues that while some the documents Snowden took with him were of public interest, others damaged America's national security, including the revelations about Prism, which the Washington Post published.

That is debatable, but what is absolutely unquestionable is that Snowden did not publish any of those documents. By his own account, he believed himself to be unqualified to judge the public interest in the documents that he brought with him from the NSA, which is why he made them available to respected journalists (including the Post's Gellman).

But the Post doesn't call for jail-time for the journalists who decided to publish Snowden's documents (I'm one of them). Instead, they demand punishment for the man who risked everything to get those documents into the Post's own custody, then defered to the Post and its rivals to decide whether and what to publish.

As Glenn Greenwald — another of the original Snowden journalists — writes in a furious piece on the Post's betrayal of its source, this is a kind of editorial cowardice without comparison, and it blows a hole in the Post's own editorial credibility. What was once the home of the Pentagon Papers is now the paper that wants jail for whistleblowers. What future Snowden will trust the Post after this?

Whatever else may be true, one's loyalty to U.S. government officials has to be slavish in the extreme in order to consider oneself a journalist while simultaneously advocating the criminalization of transparency, leaks, sources, and public debates. But that's not new: There has long been in the U.S. a large group that ought to call itself U.S. Journalists Against Transparency: journalists whose loyalty lies far more with the U.S. government than with the ostensible objectives of their own profession, and thus routinely take the side of those keeping official secrets rather than those who reveal them, even to the point of wanting to see sources imprisoned.

But what makes today's Washington Post editorial so remarkable, such a tour de force, is that the editors are literally calling for the criminal prosecution of one of the most important sources in their own newspaper's history. Having basked in the glory of awards and accolades, and benefited from untold millions of clicks, the editorial page editors of the Post now want to see the source who enabled all of that be put in an American cage and branded a felon. That is warped beyond anything that can be described.

WashPost Makes History: First Paper to Call for Prosecution of Its Own Source (After Accepting Pulitzer) [Glenn Greenwald/The Intercept]

No pardon for Edward Snowden [Washington Post]