Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Setting the Record Straight

[[S C A N D A L S]] * The New York Times, under attack by the Republican White House for having broken the news about George W. Bush’s domestic spying scandal, strikes back in a no-nonsense Wednesday editorial titled “On the Subject of Leaks.” Here’s an excerpt, though you really ought to read the whole thing:
A democratic society cannot long survive if whistle-blowers are criminally punished for revealing what those in power don't want the public to know--especially if it’s unethical, illegal or unconstitutional behavior by top officials. Reporters need to be able to protect these sources, regardless of whether the sources are motivated by policy disputes or nagging consciences. This is doubly important with an administration as dedicated as this one is to extreme secrecy. ...

When the government does not want the public to know what it is doing, it often cites
national security as the reason for secrecy. The nation’s safety is obviously a most serious issue, but that very fact has caused this administration and many others to use it as a catchall for any matter it wants to keep secret, even if the underlying reason for the secrecy is to prevent embarrassment to the White House. The White House has yet to show that national security was harmed by the report on electronic spying, which did not reveal the existence of such surveillance--only how it was being done in a way that seems outside the law.

Leak investigations are often designed to distract the public from the real issues by blaming the messenger. Take the third leak inquiry, into a
Washington Post report on secret overseas C.I.A. camps where prisoners are tortured or shipped to other countries for torture. The administration said the reporting had damaged America’s image. Actually, the secret detentions and torture did that.

Illegal spying and torture need to be investigated, not whistle-blowers and newspapers.
Let me say this again, in case anyone missed hearing it the first time: The whistle-blower who alerted the Times to Bush’s unnecessary, warrantless eavesdropping on people in the United States is a patriot and supporter of democracy, not some traitor deserving of prosecution.

READ MORE:When Can a Government Employee Blow the Whistle?” by Daniel Engber (Slate).

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