Forum on Press Freedom: What we said

On July 24, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress held a forum on press freedom to examine recent threats and attacks against the media. Much of the discussion focused on the changing landscape in the media and attacks and threats from President Trump. Congress could take several steps to strengthen freedom of the press, we argued, including enacting a shield bill to protect journalists’ sources, a law to protect free speech against abusive libel [More]

A few things to remember about leaks

Journalists who routinely cover national security and foreign affairs topics take care to carefully consider possible harms to national security, privacy or similar interests from disclosures of information in their stories. Journalists carefully weigh government assertions of harm. There are limits to what can be classified. Executive Order 13526 makes clear that information can only be classified if protection is “required” in the interest of national security. Further, information can never be classified in order [More]

In defense of leaks

The August edition of Editor and Publisher magazine includes a feature article I wrote in defense of leaks. “Leaks” often describe any unauthorized disclosure of either classified or unclassified information, and those disclosures are the basis for a great deal of daily news reporting that benefits the public interest. There have been efforts in the past to shut down “leaks,” however any efforts to curtail all leaks is misguided and harms the public’s access to [More]

Pentagon (again) seeks help from Congress to keep tactics secret

Pentagon hopes Congress will protect tactics, techniques and procedures from disclosure. Military also seeks to protect rules of engagement. Public interest in disclosure could outweigh confidentality, but military gets to decide in Pentagon’s proposal. Defense Department is hoping the third time’s the charm as it once again asks for the authority to withhold from the public certain military tactics, techniques and procedures , the disclosure of which would give an adversary an advantage. The proposal [More]

Newseum Institute survey: Public values independent press, concerned about leaks

Newseum Institute’s State of the First Amendment report A Newseum Institute survey on public attitudes toward the First Amendment shows the public still strongly and consistently supports the freedoms of the First Amendment. The survey found two-thirds of respondents (67.7%) agreed “the media should act as a watchdog of the government.” The percentage of respondents agreeing that the news media reports without bias nearly doubled to 43.1% from a year ago. Other results on topics [More]

Threat of leaks investigation

President-elect Trump used Twitter to announce he asked the House and Senate intelligence committees to identify who provided to NBC News a memorandum outlining the intelligence community’s assessment of efforts by the Russian government to influence the presidential election. A threat of an investigation by Congress into unauthorized disclosures to the news media should be taken seriously. As has been widely reported, the report obtained by NBC the version for public release, not the classified version with sensitive details [More]

DNI’s media policy is a new gag order that cuts the flow of news

The Sunshine in Government Initiative strongly objects to Intelligence Community Directive 119 (ICD 119), which bans all but pre-approved contacts between the intelligence community and journalists and others who disseminate news and analysis. The Directive has the practical effect of discouraging interactions with the media about unclassified issues that have nothing to do with national security and are the basis for the daily news about what is happening around the globe. Such conversations routinely take [More]

SSCI’s Cybersecurity Bill Would Chill News Reporting

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 (CISA), released as a draft by Chairman Dianne Feinstein on June 17 and soon to be considered by the Senate Intelligence Committee, would threaten the flow of accurate news and information to the public and policymakers. The bill would allow government agencies to collect, without a warrant or other traditional legal process, journalists’ phone and other records if the government considers the journalists or their sources threats to [More]

Best practices for national-security reporting

With the recent surveillance leaks in mind, we want to call attention to a collection of “best practices” for journalists reporting on national-security issues which New York Times reporter Adam Clymer laid out as part of a larger report a couple years after the attacks of 9/11; this is a condensed version of Clymer’s summary (from SGI director Rick Blum’s recent Roll Call op-ed): Carefully consider the consequences of publishing. Take government concerns seriously. Check [More]