U.S. Rep Peter King (R-NY) has a long and troubled history with the Constitution, and his statements in the wake of the articles written by Glenn Greenwald about the National Security Agency’s massive data collection efforts prove that not only is his grasp of the foundational document of the country he serves poor, he is an outright enemy to the principles upon which the United States was founded.
King, in a CNN interview, called for the arrest not of Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old NSA consultant who leaked the information about PRISM, but of Greenwald himself for writing about the program. This is an obvious attack on Greenwald’s First Amendment rights, and such an outrageous, morally repugnant suggestion should be met at least with censure by the U.S. House of Representatives, if not outright expulsion from the body. Such action is exceedingly rare and would normally follow only a criminal act, but the case for his expulsion, censure, or at least reprimand is clear.
King, like the rest of the Representatives and Senators, has sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, along with allegiance to the document. The First Amendment guarantees the rights of a free press, and by suggesting that Greenwald might be prosecuted for publishing factually correct material is in direct contravention to that guarantee. Any restraint on the media, such as in the case of holding a story for reasons of national security, must be entered into voluntarily. King’s argument that this should be an exception to the First Amendment because U.S. lives might be at risk is on its face ridiculous, as the Supreme Court ruled in 1971 that media organizations that obtain classified information are free to publish it without censorship or punishment.
This is not the first time King has suggested unconstitutional measures. He has repeatedly called for racial and religious profiling, most recently in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. His proposals—never more than suggestions that reveal a deep-seated racism, really—along with his farcical hearings on terrorism that focused exclusively on Muslims living in America, and his claims that Muslims Americans aren’t American when it comes to war, all show that King also doesn’t believe the 14th Amendment is worth upholding or defending, either.
And none of this addresses King’s support for both the NSA generally and PRISM specifically, which calls in to doubt his support for the Fourth Amendment, as well.
I realize that he will almost certainly face no repercussions for his statement, as he has never faced any in the past. But King’s inflammatory rhetoric, past and present, shows that despite his long tenure in office, he has little respect for the rights of U.S. citizens when they need to be protected most. That will hopefully earn him ignominy in history, but it should have consequences now, as well. By his statements Rep. King has shown himself to be an enemy of the U.S., and of the U.S. Constitution.