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Glenn Greenwald: With Calls to Spare Petraeus, Feinstein Plea Shows that Not All Leaks are Equal

StoryJanuary 13, 2015
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Guests
Glenn Greenwald

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His recent articles for The Intercept include "Dianne Feinstein, Strong Advocate of Leak Prosecutions, Demands Immunity for David Petraeus."


The FBI and federal prosecutors have recommended felony charges against former CIA director David Petraeus for allegedly providing classified information to a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair. Petraeus resigned in 2012 after admitting to cheating on his wife with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The recommendation of charges stems from a probe into whether Petraeus gave Broadwell access to his CIA email account and other sensitive material. Attorney General Eric Holder was supposed to have decided by the end of last year on whether to indict. According to The New York Times, the delay has frustrated some federal officials "who have questioned whether Petraeus has received special treatment at a time Holder has led a crackdown" on government whistleblowers. On Sunday, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California urged the Department of Justice not to bring criminal charges against Petraeus, saying "the four-star general of our generation" and "very brilliant man" has "suffered enough." We are joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who calls Feinstein’s comments "one of the most disgusting you will ever hear. What she’s actually saying is that because David Petraeus is a really important person, that he should be immunized from consequences for his lawbreaking … Dianne Feinstein has called for the prosecution of all sorts of leakers, and yet she exempts David Petraeus."


TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: But, Glenn, I’d like to ask you to stay with us to talk about another issue. I want to ask you about General Petraeus. The FBI and federal prosecutors have recommended felony charges against former CIA director David Petraeus for allegedly providing classified information to a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair. Petraeus resigned in 2012 after admitting to cheating on his wife with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The recommendation of charges stems from a probe into whether Petraeus gave Broadwell access to his CIA email account and other sensitive material. Before leading the CIA, Petraeus directed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Attorney General Eric Holder was supposed to have decided by the end of last year on whether to indict. According to The New York Times, the delay has frustrated some federal officials, quote, "who have questioned whether Petraeus has received special treatment at a time Holder has led a crackdown," unquote, on government whistleblowers.

Speaking on CNN Sunday, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California urged the Department of Justice not to bring criminal charges against General Petraeus.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: This man has suffered enough, in my view. He’s the four-star general of our generation. I saw him in Iraq. He put together the Army Field Manual. He put together the Awakening and how it worked out. He, I think, is a very brilliant man. People aren’t perfect. He made a mistake. He lost his job as CIA director because of it. I mean, how much do you want to punish somebody?

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein saying General Petraeus isn’t perfect, he’s a very brilliant man, so he shouldn’t be indicted. Your response to this, Glenn Greenwald?

GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, even though Dianne Feinstein is a really good Democrat, and even though what she just said she used just kind of soft tones to say it, it’s actually one of the most disgusting remarks you’ll ever hear. And, I mean, I didn’t actually even realize the full extent of that until I just heard that video; I had only seen the transcript. What she’s really—what she’s actually saying there is that because David Petraeus is a really important person—she says he’s a four-star general, the four-star general of our generation, and a very brilliant man—that he should be immunized from consequences for his lawbreaking, he suffered enough.

Now, what’s so amazing about that is that, first of all, the United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other country in the world for trivial transgressions. You would never hear Dianne Feinstein or any of those people in Washington saying about ordinary people, "Oh, they’ve suffered enough. They’ve lost their jobs. They’ve been taken away from their family. Let’s free them from prison." But the more amazing thing is, Dianne Feinstein is someone who has called for the prosecution of all sorts of leakers, and yet she exempts David Petraeus.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what General Petraeus did—interestingly, perhaps brought down by the very surveillance you criticize, Glenn.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. I mean, what David Petraeus did actually wasn’t that bad. I mean, what he essentially is accused of doing is sharing classified information with his mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell. And if you were to say to me, just in a vacuum, "Should David Petraeus face felony charges for that behavior?" I would probably say, "No, it was pretty benign. It was something he shouldn’t have done, but it doesn’t strike me as a really serious violation." The problem is, is that the Obama administration has prosecuted a whole array of leakers and put them in prison for behavior at least as innocuous, if not much more so. Stephen Kim, who was allegedly Fox News’s source for a very harmless leak on North Korea, is sitting in prison. Of course, they’ve charged Edward Snowden with felony charges, even though there’s zero evidence of any national security harm. He didn’t actually leak anything to the public; he only gave it to journalists. Dianne Feinstein wrote an op-ed calling for Julian Assange to be prosecuted for exposing war crimes; under the Espionage Act, she wants him prosecuted. And so, you have this whole array of people—

AMY GOODMAN: Of course, Chelsea Manning has been sentenced to—

GLENN GREENWALD: —who have been put in prison for leaking classified information.

AMY GOODMAN: Chelsea Manning has been sentenced to what? More than 35 years.

GLENN GREENWALD: Thirty-five years in prison, and Dianne Feinstein supports that prosecution. And so, you have these noble leakers, who have not harmed national security, endangered nobody, and they’ve been put into prison or threatened with prison for a very long time. And you have David Petraeus, who all of Washington is now acting to protect because he’s a political elite and one of them, and they don’t believe they or people like them should be subjected to the rule of law, which makes—which is what makes that Dianne Feinstein mentality so dangerous.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, we want to thank you for being with us, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His recent pieces for The Intercept include "Dianne Feinstein, Strong Advocate of Leak Prosecutions, Demands Immunity for David Petraeus" and "In Solidarity With a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons." His most recent book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. And we’ll link to it at democracynow.org.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the head of Reporters Without Borders has just flown in from Paris. We’ll speak with her, and then we’ll talk about what’s happened in Nigeria. Stay with us.

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