THE DISSENTER: Toobin’s campaign against Snowden and in defense of the government’s right to protect sensitive national security secrets is incredibly hypocritical, given his past history. In journalist Michael Isikoff’s book, Uncovering Clinton: A Reporter’s Story, he described how Toobin was caught “having absconded with large loads of classified and grand-jury related documents from the office of Iran-Contra independent counsel Lawrence Walsh” in 1991:
Toobin, it turned out, had been using his tenure in Walsh’s office to secretly prepare a tell-all book about the Iran-contra case; the privileged documents, along with a meticulously kept private diary (in which the young Toobin, a sort of proto-Linda Tripp, had been documenting private conversations with his unsuspecting colleagues) were to become his prime bait to snare a book deal. Toobin’s conduct enraged his fellow lawyers in Walsh’s office, many of whom viewed his actions as an indefensible betrayal of the public trust. Walsh at one point even considered pressing for Toobin’s indictment.
Toobin was “petrified” that he would have to face criminal charges for stealing information for a rather dubious book deal. And, according to Isikoff, he either “feared dismissal and disgrace, or simply wanted to move on,” and he “resigned from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn (where he had gone to work after Walsh) and abandoned the practice of law.”
Walsh’s memoir on the Iran-Contra investigation, Firewall, included more details on Toobin’s act:
During our negotiations over the timing of the book’s publication, Toobin and his publisher surprised us with a preemptive suit to enjoin me from interfering with the publication or punishing Toobin for having stolen hundreds of documents, some of them classified, and for exposing privileged information and material related to the grand jury proceedings. I could understand a young lawyer wanting to keep copies of his own work, but not copying material from the general files or the personal files of others. MORE
JEFFREY TOOBIN: The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy led directly to the passage of a historic law, the Gun Control Act of 1968. Does that change your view of the assassinations? Should we be grateful for the deaths of these two men? Of course not. That’s lunatic logic. But the same reasoning is now being applied to the actions of Edward Snowden. […] In this debate, Snowden himself says, those who followed the law were nothing better than Nazis: “I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg, in 1945: ‘Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.’ ” To be sure, Snowden has prompted an international discussion about surveillance, but it’s worthwhile to note that this debate is no academic exercise. It has real costs. Consider just a few. What if Snowden’s wrong? What if there is no pervasive illegality in the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs? MORE
RELATED: there is in fact very good reason to believe that laws have been broken. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s testimony to Congress troubled Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, because it was misleading. Carl Levin was being polite; simply stated, Clapper lied. How else would we know that that testimony was misleading? Isn’t perjury a law that should be respected, and when that perjury is to Congress on a matter of public importance, doesn’t that rise to a level that whistle-blowing is justified? The only way that lie can be justified is a belief in a paternalistic and hypocritical state that would be antithetical to a modern, democratic state in which a free press exists. Leaving aside Mr. Clapper’s perjury, the several programs that Mr Snowden publicized each can, to a reasonable person, appear unjustifiably broad and, judging by the widespread outrage that the information about these programs has engendered, many in U.S. and other countries share this view. To retreat to the legal rationalizations of the present administration, which seem to have been distilled to: “if it is written down somewhere, even in a secret court, it must be legal” is a slippery slope that could ultimately be used to defend anything, including—since you asked for it—Nazism. MORE