June 24th, 2013

Glenn Greenwald to CNN’s Jake Tapper: He’s not searching for political nirvana, he’s searching for a place where he can be safe.

The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald tells CNN’s Jake Tapper that he currently has “no idea” where Snowden is located. Greenwald also told Tapper, “I didn’t even know where Mr. Snowden worked or what his name was until after he was — in Hong Kong with the documents.This interview aired today on The Lead with Jake Tapper in the 4 p.m. ET hour. Highlights are below; a full transcript of the program will be posted on http://archives.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTSFor exclusive program content please visit CNN.com/thelead
Highlights from Interview: Please credit all usage to CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper

JAKE TAPPER, HOST:  And here to talk about this all is Glenn Greenwald, columnist for “The Guardian” and one of the two reporters who broke the story of Snowden’s leak and has written extensively about these leaks since then.

So, Glenn, do you have any idea where Ed Snowden is right now?

GLENN GREENWALD, “THE GUARDIAN”:  No, I actually have no idea.  And the last time I spoke with him, he was in Hong Kong and I don’t know anything more than media reports, which also don’t seem to know anything about his whereabouts at the moment.

TAPPER:  So we have a general idea of the path that he seems to want to take, from Hong Kong to Russia and now, perhaps, to Ecuador via Cuba.  Now, none of these countries are exactly beacons of freedom, uh, especially, uh, Russia and China and Cuba.

Why do you think he’s headed to Ecuador?

GREENWALD:  I think the reason is — is very simple and it’s really twofold.  Number one is that the United States, unfortunately, is not a beacon of press freedom, either.  If you read the column by “The New York Times” writer, David Carr, today, what he says is that the fact that there is a war on the press being waged by the Obama administration is not a matter of hyperbole, but a matter of math, meaning that the number of people — of whistleblowers who have been prosecuted under the Obama administration is far more than any other president in American history.  And he knows that he will face extremely severe punishment simply for having come forward.

And that leads to the second reason, which is he needs to find a place that is both able and willing to grant him asylum and shield him from that prosecution.  There aren’t many places on the earth willing or able to do that.

He’s not searching for political nirvana, he’s searching for a place where he can be safe and — and remain free and participate in the debate.  And Ecuador, it seems to be — it seems to be the case is — is the place that he has chosen.

TAPPER:  Glenn, you got into a debate yesterday with David Gregory of NBC News, who essentially, uh, said you’ve aided and abetted Edward Snowden.


DAVID GREGORY, HOST:  To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movement, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?

GREENWALD:  I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themself a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies.  The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea that I’ve aided and abetted him in any way.


TAPPER:  Fox News Channel’s James Rosen encouraged his leaker to give him documents and set up what he thought was a secret way to e-mail him.  I’m not going to launch any accusations at you, Glenn, but did you do anything beyond what James Rosen did in terms of communication with Snowden?

Did you work with him to get him a job at Booz Allen?

Did you advise him on how to transfer the documents?

GREENWALD:  The reason I’ve been reluctant to answer that question up until this point is because the theory on which those questions are based — and I’m not suggesting you’re embracing it, but you’re — you’re referencing the theory that others have embraced — is really quite pernicious, that if you’re a journalist and you work with your source and in — and in cooperating with them and in obtaining documents that you think ought to be released to the public that somehow that’s called aiding and abetting.  I call that investigative journalism.  There is no investigative journalist on the planet who doesn’t work cooperatively with their sources in order to obtain the information they need to inform their readers.

That said, um, not only did I not do more than Mr. Rosen was accused of doing by the Justice Department when he was called a co-conspirator, I did much, much less.  I didn’t even know where Mr. Snowden worked or what his name was until after he was on — in Hong Kong with the documents.

We had some preliminary communications with him about how to communicate, uh, secretly, um, in a way that would be secure, um, but other than that, nothing.

And so anybody who wants to raise this insinuation against me, against “The Washington Post,” Bart Gellman or anybody else that we somehow aided and abetted Mr. Snowden, anyone who wants to even raise that, let alone claim it, um, ought to be compelled to point to specifics or point to evidence to support that accusation, because there is none.

Otherwise, it — it’s just reckless insinuation and shouldn’t be tolerated.

TAPPER:  And, Glenn, before I let you go, I know you wanted to talk about a story that was reported in McClatchy, uh, a few days ago about ways in which the Obama administration, uh, is trying to make sure that no one leaks any information to anyone, whether it’s national security related or not.

GREENWALD:  Right.  I think that’s really the key context, Jake, for everything that we discussed about why he’s going to Ecuador, about why it is that he’s trying to travel through these other countries.

We do have a climate in the United States that has been created over the last five years in which leakers and whistleblowers, people who step forward to inform the public about classified information because they think it reveals wrongdoing, are treated, as this McClatchy article said, as enemies of the state, basically traitors.  They’re not people who work for a foreign government, sold the information, worked at the behest of foreign governments, just anybody who disclose anything that the government marks “classified” is deemed to be an enemy of the state and punished severely.

And that is a very dangerous threat to the news gathering process.  And it’s the reason why whistleblowers who come forward, like Mr. Snowden, feel a need to flee, because the government has become so oppressive with regard to that behavior.


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In addition, today Secretary of State John Kerry sat down with CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott to discuss the efforts to return Edward Snowden to the United States. More information: http://on.cnn.com/130ggEW  And stay tuned to CNN, a special The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer   “NSA Leaker On The Run” – airs in the 6 p.m. ET hour. More information: http://on.cnn.com/1cf3Zfh