Sunday, January 01, 2006

On leakers and the press ... 
I think the public has an interest in prosecuting leakers, but no particular interest in prosecuting reporters who report what the leakers tell them.

There's a difference, I think, between a journalist reporting information, even if that information is classified, and someone with a security clearance, in the employ of the people, who has been specifically entrusted to safeguard classified information, and who violates that trust by leaking it - whatever the motive.

Now, the Times, of course, and the reporter and the publishers of his book, are profiting from the release of this information. And so while I'd be reluctant to prosecute a reporter except the most egregious cases, if there is, indeed, a terrorist attack, and it can be demonstrated that the disclosure of the NSA program hampered efforts to prevent it, and people are killed and injured as a result, and property is destroyed as a result of the Times' irresponsibility, then I would not be opposed to some substantial civil liability to the estates and families of the victims.

The possibility of strict civil liability in the event of a terrorist attack might go a long way to aligning the interests of the republic and the New York Times itself, and help spark a more responsible and sober risk/reward analysis on the part of the Times and other institutions like it.

Noone has yet been able to show actual damages as a result of the NSA wiretaps. But the damages arising from a terrorist attack will be something else altogher.

Scoops are great - but a newspaper should not sell out the interests of the republic in pursuit of a scoop.

Splash, out


(Cross-posted from Press Think)

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