In an interview published yesterday, NYT reporter Peter Maass asked Edward Snowden why he didn’t go to one of the big US newspapers with the NSA documents. His answer:
After 9/11, many of the most important news outlets in America abdicated their role as a check to power — the journalistic responsibility to challenge the excesses of government — for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market during a period of heightened nationalism. From a business perspective, this was the obvious strategy, but what benefited the institutions ended up costing the public dearly. The major outlets are still only beginning to recover from this cold period.
— Edward Snowden, as published in The New York Times on August 13, 2013
Put less politely, Snowden doubted they would have the courage to actually publish something their government really didn’t want to see published. I think the reactions on Snowden’s leaks in many US media justify that concern. And it reminded me of something I blogged about more than two years ago: Thomas Jefferson’s statements on the importance of free speech and a free press.
“our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
— Thomas Jefferson, January 28, 1786
Also, I am quite certain that Jefferson would have approved Edward Snowden’s actions, quite contrary to what Obama and many others in Washington D.C. do:
“I agree with you that it is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities, which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country.”
— Thomas Jefferson, October 4, 1823