On the Friday edition of the PBS NewsHour (4/18/14)–a show where, you know, you get a different take on the news–pundit and New York Times columnist David Brooks was asked to weigh in on the Pulitzer Prize being awarded to the Guardian and the Washington Post for their reporting on the NSA based on whistleblower Edward Snowden. And he did:
Well, you know, I find him repellent. If somebody talked about internal conversations at the NewsHour, or at the New York Times, and then broadcast them, I would find that person repellent, and doubly so when it’s national security secrets, after he’s sworn an oath to do so. So I’m no fan of him.
As for the press coverage and whether it deserves recognition, I guess I have sort of complicated views. I’m a little made nervous by the fact that they really did benefit by what I think of as a repellent, unpatriotic act.
This isn’t exactly new territory for Brooks, who once wrote a column about Snowden that mused about his failure to finish high school or visit his mother often enough (FAIR Media Advisory, 6/11/13), and called him a “grandiose narcissist” on the NewsHour (Extra!, 8/13)
Brooks did acknowledge that in journalism “a lot of our leaks and a lot of our best stories come from people who are betraying a confidence,” which I suppose explains why he says his views about giving an award to the journalists who reported the NSA stories are “complicated.”
A few things that are less complicated: Brooks seems to have a hard time seeing the difference between someone spilling the secrets of the New York Times or the NewsHour and someone who has exposed illegal and unconstitutional government surveillance programs (New York Times, 6/27/13; MSNBC, 1/23/14). That’s a little strange.
So, too, is his claim that Snowden had ever “sworn an oath” not to divulge “national security secrets.” As has been discussed elsewhere (New Yorker, 6/11/13; Press Freedom Foundation, 1/8/14), Snowden does not appear to have taken any such oath to work as a contractor for the NSA; his earlier employment at the CIA would have required him to take an oath to uphold the Constitution.
Snowden (Washington Post, 12/23/13) has said his whistleblowing was in part meant to uphold that oath, not violate it.