Salon’s Glenn Greenwald tore into two CNN personalities Monday for their framing of a discussion about secrets outlet WikiLeaks.
First, Greenwald blasted CNN’s Jessica Yellin for suggesting that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was profiting from the disclosure of classified information. Assange has said that he agreed to a $1.3 million book deal to help defray legal costs.
Then he tore into CNN contributor and former Bush Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend, calling out her lie that WikiLeaks had dumped 250,000 US State Department cables without redacting sensitive information.
It was all downhill for CNN, right from the interview’s start.
“Any qualm about the fact that he is essentially profiting from classified information and do you see any irony in the fact he is making money off of a corporate publisher?” Yellin asked.
“I would contest the premise of your question,” Greenwald replied. “He is not profiting at all off classified information. The legal fees that he is facing already amount to $200,000. It is certain that his legal fees continue to sky rocket. He is clearly the leading target of governments around the world.”
“There is no question that even with his $1.3 million book contract, at the end of the day, his legal fees are going to be vastly more than that. What this is a way for him to survive the legal onslaught that governments are launching,” he said.
Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden where is he wanted for questioning in connection to alleged sexual assaults. He was free on bail in London at the time of this story’s publication. The WikiLeaks founder has also said that he expects the US to charge him with espionage or conspiracy.
“He should also be prepared to go to jail for what he’s done, as other revolutionaries have. No?” Yellin asked.
“Well, see, you’re a journalist, so you should understand better than anybody that publishing classified information about what governments do is not actually a crime,” Greenwald replied. “The New York Times exposed the Bush administration’s top secret eavesdropping program, the CIA black site program. Wikileaks has never exposed a top secret. This is all secret, marked secret, a lower level designation and in the United States, again, journalists should know this better than anybody.”
Yellin then asked Townsend if she agreed with Vice President Joe Biden’s assertion that Assange is a “high-tech terrorist.”
“There is no question,” Townsend said.
“Your initial question was is he profiting from the commission of a crime and the answer to that is yes,” she added. “This is a guy who committed a crime. He did not do what your standard journalists do and by the way, when your other guest refers to New York Times, even the New York Times, when they have very sensitive classified information, would come to the government and redact it.”
“Fran Townsend can talk all she wants about how he has committed a crime,” Greenwald shot back. “Many people believe that her [former boss President George W. Bush] has committed lots of crimes, but he hasn’t been convicted of anything.”
“[Assange] has not been charged with a crime and he has not been convicted of a crime in connection with these leaks and that’s because you can say it all you want, but as a lawyer, I will tell you, and you ask any lawyer if this is true, it is not a crime in the United States to leak classified information if you don’t work for the government.”
“He didn’t take any steps to understand the information,” Townsend countered. “It was so vast, of what was public, whether or not it would be useful or not, he made no distinctions about the harm he might be doing to foreign governments, to the US government, to diplomats and soldiers around the world. He just wholesale threw this out there.”
“That’s totally false. That’s just a lie,” Greenwald said. “He has published less than 1 percent of the 250,000 diplomatic cables that he came into possession of, less than 2,000 of the 250,000.”
Indeed, many of the cables released by WikiLeaks itself have been redacted to protect the identities of confidential sources.
“It’s extraordinary how — even a full month into the uproar over the diplomatic cable release — extreme misinformation still pervades these discussions, usually without challenge,” Greenwald wrote in his Tuesday column.
“[T]here was Fran Townsend spouting the cannot-be-killed lie that WikiLeaks indiscriminately dumped all the cables. And I’m absolutely certain that had I not objected, that absolute falsehood would have been unchallenged by Yellin and allowed to be transmitted to CNN viewers as Truth,” he continued.
“Do you think Jessica Yellin would ever dare speak as scornfully and derisively about George Bush or his top officials as she does about Assange? Of course not,” he wrote. “Instead, CNN quickly hires Bush’s Homeland Security Adviser who then becomes Yellin’s colleague and partner in demonizing Assange as a ‘terrorist.’”
This video is from CNN’s John King, USA, broadcast Dec. 27, 2010 and uploaded by MoxNews.com.