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Journalism, The CIA Leak and National Security

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If the CIA employee fired today for leaking highly classified material to the press had instead taken a computer and given it to a reporter, the reporter would be guilty of receiving stolen goods, right?

And if an Apple employee leaked key design and development info to a competitor, the competitor would be in the wrong, right?

So, how can the journalists recipient of the pilfered info be a hero?

Becaue the reporters’ colleagues are reporting the news about the leak?

Because government needs watchdogs?

But what if the leaked information compromised an anti-terrorist operation, allowing terrorists to escape and strike U.S. interests, or the homeland, later?

The rules for “national security leaks” were established in the era of the Vietnam War, and because the Pentagon Papers case did not involve the sort of incredibly sensitive information we see leaked in the context of the Global War on Terror, we are using rules forged in a different era to judge the new era’s dilemmas.

And the default position of “publish” –also corrupted by additional new incentives of book deals and celebrity– is in need of a thorough review and possible revision within the world of journalism.

I’ll be discussing “journalism ethics,” including the CIA leak and Michael Hiltzik’s Harvey moments and the Los Angeles Times “Code of Ethics” with Steve Lovelady, editor of Columbia Journalism Review’s online site, CJRDaily, and Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at NYU and proprieter of PressThink.

Both lefties, but both honest about the business we all cover, work within, and love. (Transcripts will be up at later.)

A related question: Who were the reporters with bylines in the Pentagon papers case? From the June 16, 1971 New York Times:

The Justice Department named the following defendants in addition to The New York Times Company in today’s injunction: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, president and publisher, who will return today from a trip to London; Harding F. Bancroft and Ivan Veit, executive vice presidents; and Francis A. Cox, James C. Goodale, Sydney Gruson, Walter Mattson, John McCabe, John Mortimer and James Reston, vice presidents.

Also, John B. Oates, editorial page editor; A. M. Rosenthal, managing editor; Daniel Schwarz, Sunday editor; Clifton Daniel and Tom Wicker, associate editors; Gerald Gold and Allan M. Siegal, assistant foreign editors; Neil Sheehan, Hedrick Smith, E. W. Kenworthy and Fox Butterfield, reporters; and Samuel Abt, a foreign desk copy editor.

(A great group of links is avaiulable at Hedrick Smith’s site.)

There is fame, fortune, and circulation in these stories. Reporters and editors know that.

But do they know the risks? Can they possibly be in a position to judge those risks? And does the American people agree that the Beltway/Manhatten journalism elite ought to be deciding these issues for the rest of the country?


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