Saturday, May 25, 2013

Why I don't defend Rosen or the government

It seems my friend Dan at Pruning Shears and I are having a disagreement. I don't think we're actually as far apart on the government surveillance of the media as he does. I think I made rather clear in my earlier post on James Rosen and also on the AP records grab that I don't condone secret government surveillance on the media -- or anyone. Unfortunately it doesn't appear that the government conducted these investigations illegally. The laws that make it possible have been creeping into our judicial system long before the Obama administration arrived. And let's not lose sight of the fact that Rosen isn't being charged with a crime regardless of the dicey allegations made by the government to get its authorization for his records.

Booman and I differ on that point. I don't consider Rosen a criminal. I think he's an irresponsible journalist. Rosen's email to his source made clear his main interest was in scooping his competitors, not in changing any policy. However, his piece was written in a way that revealed our intelligence operation. If he had simply done the usual anon source says N. Korea will blah, blah blah... without revealing we had an inside source in N. Korea and had lost track of their missiles, I wouldn't have seen it as damaging.

While Dan Ellsberg would probably disagree, I don't see any comparison between the Pentagon Papers and what Rosen did. The Pentagon Papers revealed serious government misconduct. Our government lied to the people and to Congress. Big lies that resulted in tens of thousands of lost lives. That was whistleblowing in the service of public interest. I'm wondering what government wrongdoing Dan sees as having been revealed by Rosen.

I don't suggest we blindly accept every government claim of acting in the interest of national security while they abridge our civil rights. We need to look no further than the odious NSLs the Bush administration was so fond of to see the danger in that. But neither do I trust the motives of our present day media so much that I'm willing to unequivocally defend them. Surely Jon Karl and his anon source who provided altered emails to perpetrate a false GOP narrative would suggest our skepticism should go both ways. What good is a free media if they lie to us too, or jeopardize our intelligence assets, simply to drive traffic? As far I'm concerned neither secret surveillance nor irresponsible journalism should be defended. We deserve better from both sides

[Crossposted at my long dormant FDL account]

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Blogger Steve M. said...

[Crossposted at my long dormant FDL account]

For your sake, I hope you put on Kevlar first.

4:15:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Ha! Only did it because Dan crossposted there as well. I don't expect to generate much feedback. I'm not outraged enough to be popular. And I don't engage in useless arguments so the trolls lose interest. Though I admit I checked and Phoenix Woman left a very sweet comment. So there's that.

5:17:00 PM  
Blogger danps said...

Hi Libby. I just wanted to point out a couple things. First, I compared Ellsberg and Manning, not Ellsberg and Rosen. My problem was with BooMan using the Rosen case as a jumping off point for really broad claims about leaking - the "with no discrimination" part seems especially pernicious to me. We have a well regarded precedent of exactly that with Ellsberg. I strongly disagree with condemning it as a matter of principle.

Second, I tried to be careful to not unequivocally defend Rosen. I linked to the piece on his non-journalistic motives and called him a sketchy character, for instance. In this case I don't think either the government or the outlet are trustworthy, so trying to figure out what actually happened is (barring a criminal trial) going to be a muddle.

7:57:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Admit I missed the Ellsberg comparison. Not quite focused today. Haven't been feeling well and found out yesterday I lost one of my very best friends in the world to cancer. He wasn't supposed to die so soon. I'm a bit hungover today.

That said, I'm not sure I find the analogy between Ellsberg and Manning quite right either. Didn't follow the Wikileaks closely by don't recall they exposed any great govt misconduct. What I saw was basically palace intrique w/in the State Dept. I could however draw an analogy between Manning and Padilla in their treatment in prison. Some serious govt misconduct in both cases and far as I can see neither of them posed any great threat to national security in an real sense.

As for Rosen, in terms of govt surveillance, the scope was narrowly focused on the one incident. Personally, I'm concerned about N Korea myself, especially with this crackpot kid nominally in charge. I see a compelling interest for a govt investigation into leaks that compromise intelligence operations there. It's not like it's an easy country to crack. Just can't see this particular incident as govt overreach. Which is not to say we shouldn't be vigilant to thwart it when it happens.

8:48:00 PM  

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