While the media has reacted with alarm over the Trump admin hunt for leaks to the media ?
There IS a need to make some reasonable ‘rules’ for all the parties involved….
The Government has to deal with some ‘leaks’ that could cause harm to individuals, the countries Nation Security, or help someone gain the Presidency ….
Enshrined in the First Amendment, the role of the free press in bringing to light information beyond what those in power approve for release is a foundational principle of the American system of self-government. In Senate testimony this past week, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said the transparency that comes from investigative journalism about “wrongdoing and error in the government” gives people faith in democracy.
An essential task for journalists who report such material is to talk with officials who are not authorized to publicly speak about government matters and to protect their confidentiality. Leak prosecutions and seizures of journalists’ communications data not only jeopardizes particular sources, but can also frighten others with newsworthy information into staying silent.
But the confluence of recent events — which also include the Trump-era targeting of Democratic lawmakers and aides suspected of being reporters’ sources, and extraordinary gag orders imposed on Times and CNN executives in fights over data that spilled into the Biden era, all of which an inspector general is investigating — has brought into focus how fragile the protections for journalism are in the 21st century.
Mr. Biden has vowed a major course correction. Mr. Garland, who as a federal appeals court judge in 2005 stressed “the public interest in protecting” reporters’ sources to avoid chilling the disclosure of information with “importance to the public,” has signed onto that effort while acknowledging this past week that “there are some definitional questions, but I think they are quite resolvable.”
The unresolved details are expected to be a focus of a meeting on Monday between Mr. Garland and leaders of The Times, The Post and CNN….
How broadly will the department define leak investigations that the new policy will apply to? While a government official who decides the public should know a secret and tells it to a reporter without authorization is clearly leaking, what if the F.B.I. instead suspects the reporter’s source is a hacker or a foreign agent?…
Prosecutors first convicted an official of violating the Espionage Act for leaking to the news media — as opposed to spying — in 1985, and that case then stood alone for another generation. But starting midway through the George W. Bush administration, and extending through the Obama and Trump presidencies, it became routine to send leakers to prison.
That change partly stemmed from the legally and politically charged issues that arose in the post-Sept. 11 period, like the Iraq war, torture and warrantless surveillance. The Bush Justice Department formed a task force dedicated to going after high-level national security leaks, helping alter the bureaucracy’s culture.
The change also stemmed from 21st-century communications, whose deluge of electronic trails — “metadata” showing who contacted whom and when, to who looked at or printed out a classified computer file — made it easier for the F.B.I. to identify suspects. (Encryption, of course, has separately made it harder for agents to eavesdrop on the content of communications.)….
But the specter of prosecuting reporters returned in 2019, when the department under Attorney General William P. Barr expanded a hacking conspiracy indictment of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, to treat his journalistic-style acts of soliciting and publishing classified information as crimes…..