Trevor Timm, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “I know how strange all this must sound. We have been taught, particularly in the past generation of spy scares and Cold War, to think of secrets as secrets — varying in their ‘sensitivity’ but uniformly essential to the private conduct of diplomatic and military affairs and somehow detrimental to the national interest if prematurely disclosed. By the standards of official Washington — Government and press alike — this is an antiquated, quaint and romantic view.” — Former New York Times Washington correspondent Max Frankel, 1971
Since the New York Times published two important stories containing classified information two weeks ago — one being U.S. President Barack Obama’s “kill list” and another regarding a series of U.S. cyberattacks against Iran — Congress has been replete with bipartisan outrage. Embarrassingly, this outcry has not been directed toward debate of the potentially unprecedented constitutional implications brought about by the stories, but about who leaked the classified information to reporters.
Congress’s call for increased government secrecy by way of prosecution, which has led to Attorney General Eric Holder assigning two Justice Department attorneys to investigate the alleged leaks, threatens the very foundation of reporting on U.S. national security and foreign policy. Leaks have been the lifeblood of investigative journalism — and Washington politics — for decades. If they become criminalized on a large scale, it could do irreparable damage to both freedom of the press and the public’s right to know what the government is doing abroad in its name. [Continue reading…]