Friday, May 18, 2018
When foreign enemies hack journalism; and could a blogger go to jail for publishing "accidental" classified leaks?
Here’s an important column from the New York Times on Mother’s Day, “When Spies Hack Journalism”.
Foreign enemies can influence public opinion not only through social media but also by flooding legitimate news outlets.
And the pressure to publish a scoop, if credible, is enormous.
But in this age of Internet asymmetry, a good question would be, could a journalist be criminally liable for publishing classified information that he or she stumbles on. Even an amateur blogger could face the question. “Accidents” do happen.
NPR takes up that question in a March 2017 story by Mark Folekenflik , “Could the US prosecute reporters for classified scoops?”
The article discusses the Pentagon Papers (the Washington Post and New York Times in 1971, and the film “The Post”) as well as the labor case Bartnicki v. Vopper. Although the Supreme Court may have been skeptical of claims of irreparable harm in these cases, the idea of “prior restraint” has never been legally settled.
Trump, it has been reported, had asked James Comey to prosecute journalists who publish classified information, before he fired Comey.
As a practical matter, there are some situations I can imagine where I would contact authorities and not publish, at least immediately, in the “see something say something” idea. I have held security clearances (Secret) before, but not since 1972. There is also, of course, the issue of respecting confidentiality (PII, and trade secrets) of information learned in the workplace.