By: E&P Staff
Declaring, “this seems a good moment to try to clear away the fog around this issue,” a New York Times editorial for Wednesday attempted to describe the difference between radically different types of leaks.
Two of the newspaper’s high-profile reporters, Judith Miller (who recently resigned) and James Risen, have been at the center of two very serious current leak probes.
“A democratic society cannot long survive if whistle-blowers are criminally punished for revealing what those in power don’t want the public to know — especially if it’s unethical, illegal or unconstitutional behavior by top officials,” the newspaper declares. “Reporters need to be able to protect these sources, regardless of whether the sources are motivated by policy disputes or nagging consciences.”
The editorial then examines the Plame/CIA leak, citing “a world of difference between that case and a current one in which the administration is trying to find the sources of a New York Times report that President Bush secretly authorized spying on American citizens without warrants. The spying report was a classic attempt to give the public information it deserves to have. The Valerie Wilson case began with a cynical effort by the administration to deflect public attention from hyped prewar intelligence on Iraq. …
“When the government does not want the public to know what it is doing, it often cites national security as the reason for secrecy. The nation’s safety is obviously a most serious issue, but that very fact has caused this administration and many others to use it as a catchall for any matter it wants to keep secret, even if the underlying reason for the secrecy is to prevent embarrassment to the White House. The White House has yet to show that national security was harmed by the report on electronic spying, which did not reveal the existence of such surveillance — only how it was being done in a way that seems outside the law.”
Concluding by mentioning a third leak probe, regarding The Washington Post’s revelations about secret prison camps for terror suspects, the Times observes, “Illegal spying and torture need to be investigated, not whistle-blowers and newspapers.”