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 and is vital to daily news coverage. The government’s response through leaks investigations (and threats of investigations) should be tempered by an analysis of the actual harm that may come from such disclosures, not the fact that an unauthorized disclosure occured.