On the July 20 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, right-wing radio host Melanie Morgan said, "I still believe" that "anybody who leaks or publishes classified data in a time of war in highly successful program such as the SWIFT [bank-tracking program], they should be tried for treason. If they were found guilty of treason, I would have no problem with them being executed." Morgan was referring to comments she made on the June 26, 2006, edition of Hardball following the publication of a New York Times article three days earlier describing a secret Bush administration program designed to monitor international financial transactions by tapping into a database maintained by a banking consortium known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). After a commercial break on the July 20 Hardball, Morgan again defended her comments about Keller and the Times. Guest host Mike Barnacle responded: "You're kidding, right?"
As Media Matters for America documented, on the June 26, 2006, edition of Hardball, Morgan said: "I see it as treason, plain and simple, and my advice to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at this point in time is chop-chop, hurry up, let's get these prosecutors fired up and get the subpoenas served, get the indictments going, and get these guys [Keller and The New York Times] behind jail." According to a June 29, 2006, San Francisco Chronicle article, Morgan later said: "If [Keller] were to be tried and convicted of treason, yes, I would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber."
From the 5 p.m. ET hour of the July 20 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
NAOMI WOLF (political activist and author of the forthcoming The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot (Chelsea Green)) : They're waking up to the fact that this administration uses very nasty, dark tactics like smearing critics and dissenters. And Melanie, I've got to -- I'd like to sort of confront you. You know, you've done this, too. You attacked [New York Times executive editor] Bill Keller when he published the SWIFT banking articles. And you also, you know, accused him essentially of treason.
MORGAN: Yes, Naomi, I did. And it was right here on Hardball, as a matter of fact, when I said that anybody who leaks or publishes classified data in a time of war in highly successful program such as the SWIFT [unintelligible], they should be tried for treason. If they were found guilty of treason, I would have no problem with them being executed. That's my exact quote. Of course, I know that you've been researching --
BARNICLE: Who -- what was this? Who were you going to execute?
MORGAN: And it was said right here on Hardball, and I still believe that. And I believe that Senator Hillary Clinton is engaging in a very dangerous and very, very unfortunate choice of words here now. She has creeped constantly leftward, and it's hurting our military and our family. And what she's driving towards is a premature evacuation of the battlefield, leaving Iraq in disarray and the American troops as losers, and that is wrong.
WOLF: And Melanie, if I could get --
MORGAN: Plain wrong.
WOLF: Melanie, if I can get a word edgewise. The American people really have to know, and I think, no disresp-- well, a lot of disrespect, actually. Melanie, you're playing a very dangerous game because when, in American history, leaders start to say that critical speech is treason or that critical speech is disloyal or unpatriotic -- I mean, that's what they did in the McCarthy era.
MORGAN: It is unpatriotic.
WOLF: That's what they did in World War I.
MORGAN: We have -- we have real --
WOLF: -- with the anti-- let me finish.
MORGAN: -- men and women who are in a blistering sandbox in Iraq right now facing 130 degree temperatures, and their lives and limbs are being shot off --
MORGAN: And for you --
WOLF: Which is why you --
MORGAN: -- and for you and anybody else to say that it is patriotic to backstab their mission is just flat wrong.
WOLF: It is patriotic to ask --
MORGAN: And there is a lot of disrespect intended there to you, too.
WOLF: OK. So, Melanie, constructively, what I want to remind you is that Thomas Jefferson and the Founders made it very, very difficult to call anyone a traitor because they understood how charges of treason were swept around and that they themselves were -- could have been accused of treason for prosecuting the Revolutionary War. And so they made it very difficult because they understood that in times of war, anyone who criticized the prosecution of the war could be called a traitor and that that was dangerous for democracy. And what I'm saying is that the game that you and the White House is [sic] playing by saying that critics of the war --
MORGAN: Don't lump me together with the White House. I have nothing to do with the White House.
WOLF: OK, then you.
MORGAN: I don't have anything to do with the White House.
WOLF: Fine. I think that it is very dangerous and un-American to engage in this very dark history, to resurrect this very dark history of smearing people who are asking hard questions, as they should.
MORGAN: Oh, that's interesting because Senator Clinton is one of the very finest operators of the smear machine. She and her husband, Bill, during all the impeachment hearings, and the women -- the 15 women who made allegations against him, they were the ones who were smeared, so please don't turn that on me.
WOLF: Well, I --
BARNICLE: Wait, wait.
WOLF: -- think I'm bringing up a very substantive and important point --
WOLF: -- and it's germane to what happened to Mrs. Clinton today, which is that in America, the people need the representatives to ask hard questions --
WOLF: -- and this administration should be ashamed of themselves for saying that that's un-American.
BARNICLE: Naomi, we have to take a break. We're going to be back with Melanie and Naomi Wolf and treason and executions and everything and homework.
BARNICLE: Welcome back to Hardball, and we're with radio talk-show host Melanie Morgan and Democratic activist Naomi Wolf, author of The End of America.
Melanie, clear this up for me. I didn't quite get in that last segment -- who were you calling to be executed? You were talking about executing someone or some people or some group of people.
MORGAN: Chris Matthews, yeah -- Chris Matthews on this very program about a year or so ago asked me about what I thought should be the penalty for whoever leaked the valuable SWIFT database program to The New York Times, and I said, I wasn't aware of what the treason charge would carry. And it turns out it carries the death penalty, so I said, "Yes, I would agree if he were -- if Bill Keller of The New York Times were to be tried of treason and convicted, I would have no problem whatsoever with him facing the death penalty." And apparently 62 percent --
BARNICLE: You're kidding, right?
MORGAN: -- of the American public feels the same way when they were asked the same question.
WOLF: I've gotta jump in, Mike. You know, what you should is that this is how dictators talk. I mean, in Stalin's show trials, the sec-- the third Moscow show trial, the editor of Izvestia was actually charged with treason in a show trial, found guilty, and executed. And in America, we do not execute people for their opinions. And that's the way the Founders set it up. And honestly, Melanie, you should go read the Constitution.
MORGAN: It's not an opinion when you publish top-secret information in your newspaper. That is endangering the lives of men and women on the battlefield in a time of war. And Naomi, you should know that.
WOLF: I certainly do know that. And I want you to really think long and hard about what kind of America you want to see, where people are afraid to speak and afraid to, you know, call governments to account because they're afraid that there will be calls for the death penalty.
MORGAN: And I don't want to be lectured to by you, Naomi, because we have men and women who are right now serving in battle, and you should be appreciative and grateful and do everything that you can to support them. I do that at Move America Forward, which has over a million members, the largest pro-troop organization in the country. And I would hope that you might make a donation or a contribution of cookies and coffee --
WOLF: Let me invite you, Melanie, to make a donation or a contribution to the American Freedom Campaign or the American Freedom Agenda, which is starting a pro-democracy movement in this country so we can restore the Constitution and the rule of law, which is what those men and women are fighting for in the desert.
BARNICLE: Naomi Wolf, Melanie Morgan, thanks both very much.