Three days after CNN's Wolf Blitzer missed an opportunity to quiz CNN political analyst William Bennett about his comment that the journalists who recently were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for their work publicly disclosing the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program and the CIA's alleged use of secret interrogation sites across the globe should not be rewarded but jailed, a CNN anchor finally asked Bennett about the controversial statement.
Three days after CNN host Wolf Blitzer missed an opportunity -- as Media Matters for America documented at the time -- to quiz CNN political analyst William Bennett about his April 18 comment that the journalists who recently were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for their work publicly disclosing the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program and the CIA's alleged use of secret interrogation sites across the globe should not be rewarded but jailed, a CNN anchor finally asked Bennett about the controversial statement. On the April 21 edition of CNN's American Morning, guest anchor and CNN senior national correspondent John Roberts asked Bennett about his remark on the April 18 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, in which he said that he didn't think that what The New York Times' James Risen and Eric Lichtblau and The Washington Post's Dana Priest "did is worthy of an award. ... [W]hat they did is worthy of jail."
Risen and Lichtblau won the Pulitzer for "national reporting" for their work uncovering the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program. Priest won the Pulitzer for "beat reporting" for her series of articles uncovering the CIA's alleged use of secret interrogation sites around the world.
From the April 21 edition of CNN's American Morning:
ROBERTS: Let's talk about your comments earlier this week about James Risen, Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times and Dana Priest of The Washington Post who won Pulitzer Prizes for their work uncovering CIA secret prisons in Europe and, as well, the NSA spying scandal. What were your listeners saying about that this morning?
BENNETT: Well, we had a lot of people weigh in. I said that I wondered whether they deserved the Pulitzer more, or actually more deserving was a subpoena or perhaps going to jail. Look, [former New York Times reporter] Judy Miller went to jail, and I don't know why we should treat these folks differently than Judy Miller, particularly, when this is --
ROBERTS: Yeah, but Judy Miller went to -- Judy Miller went to jail for contempt of court.
BENNETT: Right, well, let's see if these guys are asked --
ROBERTS: These people haven't been charged with contempt of court.
BENNETT: Well, if James Risen is asked, right, or Dana Priest is asked, "Who are your sources?" the people who gave them this information committed a crime, leaked classified information. If they are asked, and they do the same thing Judy Miller does, which I expect they would, don't you?
BENNETT: Then, they -- then, they would go to jail. Also, there's the Espionage Act.
ROBERTS: But, they -- but, they -- but they haven't been asked yet. You know, they haven't been asked yet, though.
BENNETT: We -- I don't know. If they haven't been asked yet, I assume they will. Then, you can change the tense of my remarks, but not the substance of them. But there's also the Espionage Act.
BENNETT: The Espionage Act says it is a crime to publish classified information. They did.
ROBERTS: Right. Just real quick before we let you go. What about the idea that -- the old -- age-old idea that news is what the government doesn't want you to know?
BENNETT: Well, sure. We had [Rep.] Pete Hoekstra [R-MI] on this morning, the chairman of House Intelligence, he said government should be whacked, government should be criticized, but when you're talking about security -- classified security information in a time of war -- about a program that may help us defend ourselves, you've got to -- you've got to respect the government's wishes on that one, I think.
ROBERTS: Fodder for a lot of discussion in the coming days. Bill Bennett, Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute and our own CNN contributor, thanks very much.