- - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Like Andrew P. Napolitano, I cherish the First Amendment and the freedom of the press (“Dozen members on Capitol Hill keeping Snowden NSA secrets,” Commentary, Feb. 13).

However, Mr. Napolitano, a former judge, would do well to remember the words of another distinguished jurist, Justice Robert H. Jackson: The Bill of Rights is not a “suicide pact.”

Our government keeps classified information secret for a reason — because its disclosure will endanger our national security.

The vast majority of the classified documents stolen by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have nothing to do with civil liberties. The 1.7 million documents detail the vital operations of our Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

The man who stole them fled to Moscow, where the Russian government is all too happy to shelter him. Our military and intelligence services already feel the impact of his thievery: Our enemies have been tipped off to our sources and methods, placing American lives at risk.

Authoring or publishing stories in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times or any other genuine news outlet is legitimate journalism that is protected by our Constitution, but those who simply sell their access to stolen classified government information for personal profit are not journalists just because the buyer includes some of that information in a newspaper article.

Hawking access to stolen classified information for personal gain is not journalism.

We celebrate the freedom of the press, a principle enshrined by our Founding Fathers in our Constitution. The same men who drafted the First Amendment also recognized that, in the words of the Federalist Papers, “secrecy and dispatch” are essential to a successful foreign policy.

Other countries around the world — including China and Russia — do not extend similar freedom to journalists. Foreign governments watch, jail and sometimes kill journalists in an attempt to control all news, including news on the Internet.

The authoritarians who run those states have no desire to balance the freedom of the press with the national defense. In America, we have always sought to do both.

REP. MIKE ROGERS

Chairman

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Washington