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 to: (1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency or administrative error; (2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency; (3) restrain competition; or (4) prevent [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 reliable, accurate information about global events and the challenges facing the U.S. In the article, I argue only those disclosures that may potentially cause specific [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 of interest to the coalition: Unauthorized disclosures (“Leaks”). Respondents were not swayed that prosecutors should weigh the public interest from a disclosure when deciding to [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 describing how the information was compiled. Reporting based in part on unauthorized disclosures is at times a useful way to put together an accurate picture of key events [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 place without risking intelligence sources and methods.  The Directive cuts the flow of everyday news and leaves the public with fewer tools to understand and [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 the security of information stored on computer networks. In a letter sent to the Senate intelligence Committee today, the Sunshine in Government Initiative pointed out [More]

SGI Statement on the Justice Department obtaining AP phone records

The action of the U.S. Department of Justice is an affront to the relationship between the government and news media that our nation’s founders established over two centuries ago.  Journalists experienced in reporting on global affairs and national security respect the government’s need to keep information confidential to protect national security and carefully consider the government’s concerns when reporting on such matters. Last year Congress rejected a package of changes from the Senate Intelligence Committee that would have redefined the relationship between the government and press on reporting related to global affairs and national security. Until the Justice Department’s actions [More]

Senate drops controversial Title V proposals, passes FY13 intel authorization bill (S. 3454)

The nine members of the Sunshine in Government Initiative are pleased the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (S. 3454) does not include proposals that would have curtailed the flow of information to the public about national security and foreign affairs. The media takes seriously the obligation to consider potential harms from disclosures of sensitive information while reporting the news. These proposals simply went too far in cutting off vital information to the public about world events and national security issues and had not been subject to adequate consideration by Congress.