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Rep. King: Punish reporters who help leak classified information

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) on Tuesday said that journalists who helped publish classified information should be punished.

“If they willingly knew that this was classified information, I think actions should be taken, especially on something of this magnitude,” King said in an interview on CNN.

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“There is an obligation both moral, but also legal I believe, against a reporter disclosing something which would so severely compromise national security,” he added.

King’s comments come in the wake of news reports detailing the National Security Agency’s (NSA) secret surveillance of phone calls and Internet data. The disclosures were spurred by Edward Snowden, a 29-year old contractor who leaked the information to The Guardian newspaper. 

The Justice Department has launched a criminal inquiry into the matter and may seek to extradite Snowden from Hong Kong, where he fled, and prosecute him.

Snowden’s actions have been praised by many civil libertarians who say he rightly drew attention to programs they believe infringe on privacy rights. But the White House and leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence panels have criticized Snowden, saying the programs were legal and that he has compromised national security.

On Tuesday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called Snowden a “traitor.”

King said the leaks had caused “incredible damage.”

“It’s going to put American lives at risk,” he added. 

King has called for Snowden to be prosecuted to the “fullest extent of the law” and for his immediate extradition. 

“The United States must make it clear that no country should be granting this individual asylum,” he said in a statement Sunday, shortly after Snowden went public as the NSA leaker.