Former CIA operative Mike Baker took aim at Intercept editor Jeremy Scahill and other journalists as “celebrity f—ers” after the site published an explosive whistleblower story on Thursday that exposed the Obama administration’s secret drone program.
“These guys are celebrity f–kers; Juliane Assange and Glenn Greenwald, they love the attention, they love the celebrity and the fame that it brings them; if they say they don’t, they’re lying,” he told TheWrap in an interview.
Baker, who spent 17 years as a covert operations officer and now runs security and investigations company Diligence, said the eight-part report from Intercept detailing America’s secret drone program shouldn’t have been published.
Reporters might have the best of intentions, but Baker argued they are “misguided.”
“Journalists might be sitting on a pile of papers, but they don’t have access to all the information,” he said, and added that they aren’t armed with the expertise to know whether what they publish will or won’t threaten national security or intelligence officers.
He equated journalists deciding they can responsibly publish classified information to former CIA operatives taking over a newsroom and deciding how to craft a catchy headline.
“It’s a very hostile world, and these people [journalists] seem to think they can live in a world that Bernie Sanders describes — where we’re all holding hands… that’s just a load of bullshit.”
Baker said part of the problem is the changing media landscape over the last three quarters of a century, noting that Americans initially didn’t even know President Roosevelt ran the country from a wheelchair 80 years ago.
“There was a decision made [by the Obama administration] that this is not something that needs to be out in the public domain, but that’s gone now, because all these people like Greenwald and the major networks are looking to beat someone on Twitter,” Baker railed.
He said there’s little intelligence agencies can do to prevent whistleblowers from leaking to the media –documents need to be shared between agencies for intelligence officers to do their jobs. “At a certain point, it’s a human enterprise and there’s potential for problems.”
He compared it to the pharmaceutical industry, where if you tried to lock down a company to protect intellectual property, you’d “have a riot on your hands” led by engineers, doctors and scientists who need to be able to exchange medical information.
According to First Amendment attorney Lawrence G. Walters, who’s the managing director at Walters Law Group, the journalists at Intercept are unlikely to be threatened by prosecution due to freedom of the press provisions in the First Amendment.
“The First Amendment would protect them,” he told TheWrap before pointing out that the whistleblower who leaked the information is a whole different story.
“It’s a very sensitive balancing act that the court will use in terms of the public’s right to know vs. a need to protest classified information,” he continued.
For comparison, Walters compared the Drone Papers story to the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, which saw President Nixon unsuccessfully trying to block the New York Times from publishing leaked documents about the Vietnam War.
“But there is a broad First Amendment right for a media company to publish information that the government does not want to get out without ramifications.”
Jeremy Scahill, who did much of the reporting for the multi-part drone series, didn’t respond to TheWrap’s request for comment regarding Baker’s criticisms. Glenn Greenwald, infamous for his reporting of leaked documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, also didn’t respond.