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On the backdrop of Wednesday's "Black Hat" conference in Las Vegas, which saw National Security Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander speak to the NSA's data-mining programs preventing international terrorist attacks, "Piers Morgan Live" asked a pair of seasoned journalists and an expert legal mind to offer their respective reactions.
Addressing the government's consistent position that exposing details of intelligence-gathering efforts can be potentially harmful to the nation, James Risen differed passionately:
"I can tell you I've been an investigative reporter for a long time and almost always the government says that when you write a story, it's going to cause damage, and then they can never back it up," stated the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for "The New York Times." "They say that about everything. And it's like the boy who cried wolf. It's getting old."
Joining Risen as part of the live, and lively, discussion, Glenn Greenwald noted that "leakers" are sometimes judicious with the information they reveal and what they choose to withhold:
"One word about Mr. [Edward] Snowden," began the man largely credited with breaking the story surrounding leaked information on government agencies use of secret data-mining programs. "If you have access to classified information, you could just spew it out all into the ether ... he could have uploaded it onto the internet in mass, he could have sold it to a foreign adversary, he could have passed it to a foreign government, he could have given it to Wikileaks and asked them to just publish it all. He did none of that. He came to established media organizations and said 'please be extremely careful.'"
Questioning Snowden's intentions and patriotism, Jeffrey Toobin tossed a great deal of skepticism in the direction of Greenwald:
"Glenn, he's now gone to China, and then he's gone to Russia, two of the most repressive countries in the world," noted the CNN legal analyst. "You don't think they have now have access to all that material? He somehow kept it secret from them?"
Defending his colleague and source, Greenwald stood by Snowden's story, insisting that the leaker's fleeing was simply a matter of self-preservation:
"No, they don't Jeffrey. The reason he had to go to Russia and China is because the United States is filled with Jeffrey Toobin's who want to take people who come forward and bring transparency to the government and throw them into a cage for decades and disappear them from our public discourse," he exclaimed. "The United States is no longer a safe place for whistleblowers ... he was absolutely right to leave the United States because it's the only way that he could participate in the debate that he started and avoid persecution."
Watch the clip for more of Morgan's lively interview with Greenwald, Toobin and Risen, and for the full edition of "Piers Morgan Live" tune in every night at 9pm.
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