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Reporters who published leaks of the National Security Agency's classified surveillance programs last week should be prosecuted, Rep. Peter King said Wednesday.
"It's against the law to possess certain information and it is also against the law to reveal certain information," King (R-Seaford) said in a telephone interview.
King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, attacked the press as he called for prosecution of the leaker, former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden.
King singled out reporter Glen Greenwald of the Guardian in London -- which published a secret U.S. court order allowing the NSA to collect Americans' telephone records -- as a target for prosecution.
But his call also would include Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman, who reported the NSA's sweep of Internet data of foreigners.
Gregg Leslie, legal defense director at Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, called King's call "misguided."
Journalists must be able to seek information about what the government is up to, Leslie said. "Just asking about that information and reporting it to the American people should never be a crime," he said.
King called for prosecuting the press in 2006, when a newspaper revealed a secret U.S. surveillance of bank records internationally to find terrorists.
At the time, he wrote a letter to the U.S. attorney general urging him to investigate The New York Times and other newspapers that reported the program.
"This puts American lives at risk and they did it for no good reason," King said in 2006. "No amendment is absolute, including the First Amendment."
The Justice Department did not investigate.
King said the weapon of prosecuting of press should be used very selectively, and only when lives are at risk.