Talking to Reporters Is Not A Crime: new leak investigation threatens press freedom in US

At the The Freedom of the Press Foundation blog, Trevor Timm digs deeper into disturbing news (covered here in Saturday’s Washington Post) of an FBI investigation of a large number of government officials suspected of leaking classified information to the press, which "engulfs an unknown group of reporters," along the way. Trevor writes, "The investigation includes data-mining officials’ personal and professional communications to find any contact with journalists. Just to be clear: It seems officials are being targeted for just talking to the press."


  1. How are they being targeted for “just talking to the press” if they’re leaking classified information? If it’s classified, it isn’t supposed to be disseminated to the press in the first place. The way this is written, it isn’t exactly clear if the feebs are looking for any contact with the press just for shits and giggles or in conjunction with possible leaks of classified info.

    1. The difference between the two is frequently much smaller than you suppose.  The usual reaction of government institutions is to treat everything as classified, including the things that other organisations, oversight, or the public are legally supposed to know. 

      In practice, the crime committed is usually “leaking classified information and being someone authority just generally decided to dislike today.”

  2. For perspective, read about the Moynihan Commision and it’s unanimous findings 
    secrecy is a form of government regulation
    excessive secrecy has significant consequences for the national interest when policy makers are not fully informed
    the government is not held accountable for its actions
    the public cannot engage fully in informed debate

  3. When I worked for (TLA) agency in an Intelligence position, we were not permitted to talk to the press at all about anything related to work   Period, Let alone classified stuff.

    It wasn’t up to people at my level to decide what was or was not discloseable or what harm might occur if we shot off our mouths.

    You take an oath, you sign agreements.  If you can’t handle that, don’t take the job.  If you start to doubt the ability or legality of those in charge, get out.  (I’m retired, there may or may not be a connection between that and my statements here.)

    if you *really* have an issue, get a lawyer and see what channels there are to bring the problem to the attention of those responsible.

    You go shooting off your mouth about things and maybe someone dies somewhere or a valuable source gets compromised, you do not know and should never assume you know everything behind a given bit of classified data.

    1. Or you could NOT shoot your mouth off and people die. You don’t need to know everything behind a classified piece of information to know that it’s something that shouldn’t be classified, or that the people keeping it classified are up to no good. You just need to know /enough/.

      If the US government has decided it’s job is to protect criminals at all costs, it is not okay to say “well, who are we to argue?”. At least, not if you want your government to ever be halfway decent. It is up to those who know something is going wrong to act, if they have any sense of patriotism at all. As a Citizen, your first duty is to your country, not to your contract.

    2. You take an oath, you sign agreements.

      Neither of which absolves you of moral responsibility. “I was just following orders” was deprecated as a defense quite some time ago.

      1. But when Obama used it as a reason to not prosecute American torturers, he brought the Nuremberg defense back into play.  “It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department.”

          1. Which is odd, since it puts the moral weight of his underlings’ order-following right back back on him.

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