Sunday, March 05, 2006


White House Agressively Plugging Leaks

The Instapundit says what I'm thinking, and says it more concisely than I would:
I'M NOT SURPRISED AT THIS DEVELOPMENT: "The Bush administration, seeking to limit leaks of classified information, has launched initiatives targeting journalists and their possible government sources."

Members of the press are, for the most part, appalled. But having made a big deal of leaks and their alleged harm to National Security in the Plame case, they're in a poor position to complain. Bill Keller's outrage is particularly out of place, and his suggestion that the Bush Administration is "declaring war at home on the values it professes to be promoting abroad" is just a political sound-bite, and not a particularly good one. There's not even a right of journalists to protect leakers under the U.S. Constitution, despite journalists' representations, and doing so has hardly been a slogan on the war on terror. The tendency of the press to conflate its own desire for guild-like special privileges with the protections of the First Amendment is one of the reasons for its decline in trust and popularity.
I agree. On the one hand, I think that our First Amendment rights are crucial and vital, and I do want our journalists aggressively pursuing the news, wherever they see it. On the other hand, the government is entitled to fight back aggressively if the need arises, particularly during wartime... and journalists should understand that there are limits to what they should and should not publish, in the name of national security.

It is a sad statement on journalistic professionalism and integrity in this country, when the New York Times needs to be reminded not to publish top-secret details of NSA surveillance, or of CIA covert operations and operatives.

There is also, as Prof. Reynolds points out, a double standard in press protestations over this. The outing (mistaken or not) of Valerie Plame was a scandal, because she was supposedly a covert agent whose exposure broke the law. (It was pretty well understood from the outset that her exposure did not endanger any lives, since she was not overseas at the time and had not been for some years.) A great many newspapers invested a great deal of ink on that scandal, screaming loudly about what a terrible thing it was that national security was violated. Yet violating national security seems to be a good thing, doesn't it, if the President authorizes the NSA to listen in on al-Qaeda telephone conversations, subject to oversight by a bipartisan Congressional group? (Please note that that exposure does endanger lives; al-Qaeda undoubtedly changed its methods of contacting Americans as soon as the news broke.)

And now the press complains when the White House pushes back, on issues that actually do affect national security. As I've wondered before, just how far does an American in 2006 need to go to be charged with treason? (Or have we forgotten what the word means?)

The war we are fighting is quite real, and we are all in jeopardy from it. We cannot fight it effectively when American citizens consider it their duty to tell the enemy how we are fighting them, in the name of "the people's right to know".

Again, I want journalists to pursue their stories as aggressively as they see fit. But I want them also to know that there are limits and boundaries... and that there are penalties for crossing them.

A brief memo to the journalists: there is no such thing as a "citizen of the world". Perhaps there will be, one day, and that will truly be a wonderful thing. But wishing for it won't make it so. Disavowing allegiance to one's own country, in the name of professional objectivity, places one's own family, neighbors, and countrymen at deadly risk. The illusion of "citizens of the world" is a pretty one, but it's also a luxury we cannot afford today.


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