The Washington Times - June 24, 2013, 11:44AM

A testy exchange between NBC’s David Gregory and Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald has sparked debate over what exactly a journalist’s role can and should be in cases like the one involving National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

“If he’s just getting information and putting it in the newspaper, that’s one thing, but if he’s a much bigger part of this story, that’s another,” host Joe Scarborough said of Mr. Greenwald on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Monday.

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Mr. Gregory prompted a virulent rebuke from Mr. Greenwald — who found others rushing to his defense — when he asked the man who has been out in front on many of the NSA stories why he shouldn’t be charged with a crime.

“I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies,” Mr. Greenwald shot back on “Meet the Press.” “The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea I’ve aided and abetted him in any way.”

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker said Sunday on the program journalists can’t be prosecuted for doing their jobs.

“I don’t know what his larger role is except that he does seem very defensive,” said Ms. Parker, who also pointed out that Mr. Greenwald has played media critic for years and that the role reversal was rather interesting.

“David asked a question that has been asked in other forms for a week now,” said former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle. “I mean, Glenn’s an advocacy journalist. We all understand that. But the answer to the question is a simple, ‘No, of course not.’”

After the appearance, Mr. Greenwald tweeted: “Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?”

“I want to directly take that on,” Mr. Gregory said. “This is the problem from somebody who claims that he’s a journalist, who would object to a journalist raising questions, which is not actually embracing any particular point of view. And that’s part of the tactics of the debate here when, in fact, lawmakers have questioned him. There’s a question about his role in this, the Guardian’s role in all of this. It is actually part of the debate, rather than going after the questioner, he could take on the issues. And he had an opportunity to do that here on ‘Meet the Press.’ What is journalism … and what is appropriate, is actually part of this debate.”