Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Government shows interest in prosecuting journalists (or bloggers) who publish leaked classified info; what about downstream liability?

In mid June, Washingtonian Magazine published a story indicating that the federal government (Obama administration) is becoming more diligent in tracking communications between reporters and government employees or contractors with classified information.  There are suggestions that journalists or reporters (maybe even “amateur” bloggers) who report classified information might be prosecuted or sued.

The “Capital Comment” story by Shane Harris appears June 14 here

Jamie Goldberg of the Los Angeles Times has a story July 11 about House Republicans pressuring the Justice Department, maybe with new enabling legislation, to prosecute reporters who intentionally publish classified information. The link is here

A disturbing question would be, what happens when other bloggers find the information and republish it.  Are there “Section 230” styled protections to protect service providers from possible legal liability?
Bloggers (as well as established reporters) might find themselves in possession of classified information deliberately passed to them without solicitation.  Then all the questions about journalistic shield come into play.

On the other hands, a different set of questions come into play when journalists learn of possible plans for criminal or even terrorist acts when they “connect the dots” among coincidental but relatable facts. 

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