Steve Coll At The New Yorker On Whistleblowers: ‘A Test Of Confidence’

Full post here.

How much protection should journalists have when pressured to reveal their sources?

‘In 2003, Risen learned of a tangled C.I.A. program, called Operation merlin, that was designed to feed faulty nuclear-weapons blueprints to Iran, in order to mislead that country’s scientists. According to court filings, George Tenet, the director of the C.I.A., and Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser, asked the Times not to publish Risen’s scoop, because it might endanger the life of a C.I.A. contact and harm national security’

Risen may be looking at prison time for not giving up who gave up this information to him.  The current administration is following through on his prosecution.

A little while back, there was also the case of James Rosen, Fox’s North Korean correspondent, in which the current Justice Department got a search warrant to tap Rosen’s phone and head off any potential leaks at the pass.

How much protection does a journalist get when it comes to issues of national security?  Who do you trust to determine just who the press is, and is thus afforded 1st amendment protection?:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Can anyone commit an act of journalism these days?  This also will be an important question echoing down the road.

Coll’s plea:

‘If nothing else, Holder would demonstrate to the world that the Obama Administration perceives the difference between a professional reporter’s dissenting acceptance of the rule of law and the rejection, by Assange and Snowden, of American law’s essential reliability’

Will they make that distinction?

As readers know, I think many of the ideals that guide the current administration do not necessarily maintain a liberal society, but rather lead to a less dynamic, more closed society with a majoritarian, populist politics, at best.

That chosen class of our ‘betters’, no matter how wise, technologically or scientifically able, nor full of promises of equality, are at best fallible human beings working with incomplete knowledge, the stuff of human nature, and their own ideology.  That ideology hasn’t worked out important issues between the collective and the individual.   As always, follow the money, political coalitions, and patronage to see how this works out in practice.

As for Assange, he seems to me an anarcho-Left Australian with high aptitude, a bit of a revolutionary techno-utopian hacker fighting the global hegemon, suspecting the U.S. Government of being one of the biggest threats to the kind of world he imagined ought to be.  He didn’t end up so open himself.  Surprise.

Snowden seems less anarchic and more of an idealistic, likely Left-Of-Center type, perhaps imagining a different type of dark, dystopian future with too much power in the hands of any one man or group.  When viewed most favorably, he saw a potential conflict of interest between the American public, Moore’s Law, and what the NSA is still doing as we speak.  We likely wouldn’t be talking and thinking about this issue so openly without him.

Neither man has been willing to answer to the laws and systems they sought to change.

Addition:  A reader points out that there’s a lot of case law to establish a precedent that journalists can expect potential legal action and prison time if they don’t reveal their sources.

Related On This Site: Jack Shafer At Reuters: ‘Edward Snowden And The Selective Targeting Of Leaks’Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘Drone Wars’

Repost: Trevor Butterworth At Forbes Via The A & L Daily: ‘Beware The Internet As Liberation Theology’

From CATO@Liberty: Julian Sanchez On ‘Wikileads And Economies Of Repression’