In Guest Commentary on RollCall.com this morning, we give concrete ways the government should better engage with journalists on stories based on unauthorized disclosures (“leaks”). We argue that when reporters bring stories to agencies on national security and foreign affairs where they may be some sensitive information in the story, the reporters take seriously their obligation to mitigate against possible harms from any disclosures. The government, too, has an obligation to engage the press when these stories are brought to officials to avoid possible harms from such stories. The entire commentary is available here.
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.
The Sunshine in Government Initiative remains deeply concerned that legislation, passed by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on July 24, 2012, will significantly curtail what the public learns about news events and what the government is doing in the public’s name. On August 10, 2012, the SGI sent to the Committee the following letter and analysis of certain sections of Title V of the Senate Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal 2013 (S. 3454):
Here’s a quick advisory for anyone interested in government-media tensions: A Senate panel will take a look at the Espionage Act this morning. This hearing should be closely watched by media groups for any signs that the simmering tensions between the press over leaks will once again boil into direct conflict. In 2006, the government grew increasingly hostile to press reporting based on unauthorized disclosures. This year has not seen the kinds of revelations similar to the government’s warrantless wiretapping, monitoring international banking transactions, and secret prisons in Eastern Europe, each of which drew criticism from Congress and the executive [More]