Skip to main content

I was on Democracy Now! this morning around discussing the latest in "leak" hysteria, which I've written about on Kos this week. (here and here).

Watch Democracy Now! here or here:

Yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder defended his choice to appoint two U.S. attorneys to investigate the latest "leaks" and again rejected calls from Committee Members to appoint a more independent special counsel. Congress is understandably outraged at the Obama administration's hypocrisy of waging an unprecedented war on whistleblowers using the archaic Espionage Act while feeding pro-government information to the media.

However, despite that we might want to react with relief that finally Congress has recognized the Obama administration's hypocrisy in its position on disclosures, Congress should use caution in drafting any broad anti-leak measure. The all-too-real danger is that an anti-leak law will be used against whistleblowers and to stifle dissent and critics. That is why President Clinton vetoed a broad anti-leak law in 2000.

A couple of points are worth reiterating.

(1) There is properly classified information that should not be disclosed publicly, such as troop movements and the identities of undercover agents.

(2) Not all "leaks" are created equal. There is a difference between "leaking" and whistleblowing, which I've written on extensively.

Unfortunately, the terms "leaking" and "whistle-blowing" are often used synonymously to describe the public disclosure of information that is otherwise secret. Both acts have the effect of damaging the subject of the revelation. But leaking is quite different from blowing the whistle. The difference turns on the substance of the information disclosed. The Whistleblower Protection Act protects the disclosure of information that a government employee reasonably believes evidences fraud, waste, abuse or a danger to public health or safety. But far too often, whistle-blowers are retaliated against, with criminal prosecution being one of the sharpest weapons in the government's arsenal.
(3) Despite the fact that, as Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have pointed out in the past weeks, classified information appears on the front pages of American newspapers every day, the Obama administration has only prosecuted low and mid-level officials, who are usually whistleblowers. Worse, the Obama administration has used the heavy-handed Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers, thereby threatening them with decades in prison and labeling them spies, a label that distances whistleblowers from their natural allies. The Obama administration has brought more Espionage Act prosecutions for alleged mishandling of classified information than all past presidents combined.

While recognition of the Obama administration's rank hypocrisy in allowing high-leve government officials to defend controversial programs - like the drone assassination program - while using the Espionage Act to criminally prosecute dissenters is welcome, a broad anti-leak law would likely not serve to protect whistleblowers, the press, or the American public.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site