Jun
02
2014

Meet the Press's Snowden Debate: Traitor or Criminal?

mtp-chinOn June 1, NBC's Meet the Press unveiled new polling numbers about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. They weren't very revealing. What was more instructive was how the show presented its debate over Snowden's actions.

The main participants in the discussion were right-wing Crossfire host Newt Gingrich and hawkish former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman.

From Gingrich:

What right does any single American have to decide that more than the president, more than the Congress, they're going to leak our secrets? This is the act of a traitor…. We are in a war with people who want to destroy us. They're very clear about it. And he ended up aiding and abetting the enemy.

And Harman's take? She said "labeling this guy a traitor before he's convicted I don't think is fair."  But her take wasn't exactly a huge leap from Gingrich's. She said that Congress was more active in challenging surveillance policies than Snowden gives them credit for, he "wasn't a whistleblower" and "he leaked our technology playbook, and that really compromises us." Harmon also said Snowden  "leaked information about so-called spying on Americans"–so called because that's what it was.

On the topic of what harm Snowden has done to national security, Gregory played a clip from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel:

David, his disclosures have damaged the security of this country. And I'm not going to get into a point-by-point inventory of the specifics of how he's done that. I think it's been very clear, every responsible position in our government who has had any responsibility for security or intelligence from NSA, from Cyber Command, the Defense Department, from the State Department, have said the same thing.

gingrich-mtp-snowdenAnd what were the responses from the Meet the Press panel?

First, from Gingrich: Snowden's leaks were

an act of such extraordinary arrogance that it threatens the very fabric of our national security. People need to understand, this is a big deal. And that this guy is dangerous.

Harman didn't sound much different, saying that Snowden

should cut a deal. He should come back. He should serve prison time. And I think that that's where it should come out. And the lesson to other kids ought to be that: Watch out here, this is very dangerous.

The only hint of dissent on the panel came in a brief comment from  Time's Rana Foroohar, who pointed out that while she doesn't trust Snowden–"I would have more of a belief in Edward Snowden if he wasn't a guest of Vladimir Putin"–that skepticism is spread out equally: "The administration has been evasive and has on occasion lied about its espionage tactics."

So the main debate about Snowden boils down to one side saying he's a traitor and the other side saying he should come home and do prison time, perhaps as a lesson to children.

NBC has been labeling a lot of its Snowden coverage "Traitor or Patriot?" In this case, it was more like "Traitor or Criminal."

 

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.