NY Times and National Security

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On CNN's Reliable Sources today, the pundits were discussing the leak of national security secrets to the New York Times and subsequent story about the bank data.

I don't know if the release of the details of the program helped terrorists. The argument that it did not, however, is specious: the argument goes that everyone knew we were looking at bank data, in general, and that therefore this wasn't a secret. If so, then why did you put it on your front page? Puzzling. Obviously, this is happening in a way you figure most people didn't know, which presumably means the terrorists also didn't know.

The story itself showed that a prominent terrorist was captured in 2003 using this program, and now they really expect us to just take their word for it that the release of the program's details won't hurt any efforts to capture more terrorists?

But I am more troubled -- as usual -- by the fact that this was leaked in the first place, and that the media feels absolutely no responsibility to follow their legal obligation to reveal those sources when called upon by the court to do so.

When Hugh Hewitt offered the notion that the law should be followed -- that is, that the government should find out who leaked that information, through subpoeana to the reporters they leaked to if necessary, and that those reporters should be held in contempt if they refuse to offer the names -- the other pundits responded with shock and outrage.

Host Howard Kurtz responded, "You're saying you hope that Eric Lichtblau, sitting right next to me, has to testify before a grand jury, and if he won't reveal his sources, then you are perfectly comfortable with a judge sending him off to jail." Hewitt said he hopes Lichtblau is called before a grand jury, but didn't say whether he hopes Lichtblau goes to jail if he does not respond.

I'll answer it, though: of course he should. This is a no-brainer. He knows who has violated the law by leaking classified, potentially very damaging, national security information. It is required by federal law that he provide those names if called upon to do so in federal court, and he should go to jail if he violates that law.

Lichtblau incredibly responded: "I think the use of confidential sources is an important principle for reporters, and if the government starts criminalizing that, which is where we seem to be heading, you know, you might as well declare a moritorium on investigative reporting and end the press' role as a watchdog."

That sounds nice and everything, except for the fact that we are not talking about using confidential sources, but refusing to reveal the names of your sources when under federal court order to do so. And the government is not starting to criminalize that: it's been a crime all along.

So somehow enforcing laws we've had all along, and have enforced all along, will cause an institution that has existed all along to cease to exist.

I am not sure if the press is trying to deceieve the public, itself, or both. slashdot.org

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on July 2, 2006 9:18 AM.

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