Monday, May 20, 2013

You can't yell fire in a crowded theater

Well we have a brand new brouhaha about surveillance on a journalist. Today it's James Rosen of Fox News over a story he published in 2009 about North Korea, based on an insider leak. To be clear, it's important to protect journalists. It's equally important to protect leakers when they're exposing government wrongdoing. But once again, this is not really the case here.

I'll spare you my thoughts on how ineptly they covered their tracks. Hell they were practically asking to get caught, but here's my big problem with James Rosen's reporting. His motive appears to more about career enhancement than truth telling.
[Rosen] also wrote, according to the affidavit: “What I am interested in, as you might expect, is breaking news ahead of my competitors” including “what intelligence is picking up.” And: “I’d love to see some internal State Department analyses.”
I've read a few posts about this today and noticeably missing from most of them, is a link to Rosen's original article. Here, via Booman, is the key flaw in his reporting.
What's more, Pyongyang's next nuclear detonation is but one of four planned actions the Central Intelligence Agency has learned, through sources inside North Korea, that the regime of Kim Jong-Il intends to take -- but not announce -- once the Security Council resolution is officially passed, likely on Friday.
As Booman explains:
It's important that the policy advisers and policymakers inside our government know if the intelligence they are reading is coming from straight inside the Pyongyang government. It is equally critical that the North Korean government not know that.

If someone in Pyongyang sticks their neck out to talk to the CIA, they should not be reading about it the next week on the Fox News web page. The government was basically forced to try to figure out who leaked that information, and the only thing that should be up for debate is how far the government should be able to go to solve the mystery.
I'd add I'm not sure it was in the national interest to tell North Korea we lost track of their missle movement either, but I guess that's a judgment call. Thinking it's better the North Koreans not know that, but an argument could be made that the public has the right to know.

In any case, in striking a balance between national security and protected speech, there are competing interests. This is point worth remembering as we seek to strike that balance.
Adam Weinstein: We as journalists have the right to work with leakers to report the truth. The gov. has the right, within the laws, to find/punish leakers.
First Amendment protections are not absolute. The press enjoys greater protection than most of us. The onus is on them to use it responsibly. I have to agree with Booman. This is yet another case where it wasn't.

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