The Washington Post reports today that the White House is focusing its attention on media leaks:
The Bush administration, seeking to limit leaks of classified information, has launched initiatives targeting journalists and their possible government sources. The efforts include several FBI probes, a polygraph investigation inside the CIA and a warning from the Justice Department that reporters could be prosecuted under espionage laws.
In recent weeks, dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies have been interviewed by agents from the FBI’s Washington field office, who are investigating possible leaks that led to reports about secret CIA prisons and the NSA’s warrantless domestic surveillance program, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials familiar with the two cases.
Numerous employees at the CIA, FBI, Justice Department and other agencies also have received letters from Justice prohibiting them from discussing even unclassified issues related to the NSA program, according to sources familiar with the notices. Some GOP lawmakers are also considering whether to approve tougher penalties for leaking.
This is cause for alarm amongst some media folks:
Some media watchers, lawyers and editors say that, taken together, the incidents represent perhaps the most extensive and overt campaign against leaks in a generation, and that they have worsened the already-tense relationship between mainstream news organizations and the White House.
“There’s a tone of gleeful relish in the way they talk about dragging reporters before grand juries, their appetite for withholding information, and the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public’s business risk being branded traitors,” said New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, in a statement responding to questions from The Washington Post. “I don’t know how far action will follow rhetoric, but some days it sounds like the administration is declaring war at home on the values it professes to be promoting abroad.”
Byron York at NRO, responding to Keller’s comments, reminds us of the media’s selective concern on investigating leakers:
It sounds nice, but it’s a little too late for that kind of talk, isn’t it? Keller’s own newspaper led the fight for the Valerie Wilson CIA leak investigation, cheering the appointment of a special prosecutor with powers that exceeded even the old independent counsels. And what happened? That special prosecutor went to the White House and got government sources to waive confidentiality restrictions on their talks with journalists. Then he went to journalists and said, “See? I’ve got these waivers. You can testify or you can go to jail.” And then he sent one of them to jail and threatened others. And so far, at least, he hasn’t found enough evidence to charge anyone with a national-security crime.
Too late, the Times and its allies realized that a terrible precedent had been set. Now some of them try to argue that the Wilson leak was an act of retribution, while the NSA and secret prisons leaks were the work of good-government whistleblowers, so one should be vigorously prosecuted while the others are ignored. It won’t work. Leaks are leaks, and the NSA and secret prisons leaks were, by any estimation, far more damaging to national security than the Wilson leak. (In that case, the special prosecutor said in court recently that he did not intend to show that any damage occurred from the leak.)
So now there are more investigations going on. The Times and its supporters wanted this kind of thing. Now they’ve got it.
Yet another example of a media double standard. Of course, media double standards at this point should be no surprise to anyone. The lefty opinion media and blogosphere are up in arms over this and the consensus among them is that this news is ‘chilling’ – of course, they were amongst those whining the loudest for an investigation into pLamegate. I guess some leaks to them are worthy of an investigation, while others are not – it all depends on what political damage can be done to the adminstration.
Captain Ed is on the same wavelength and writes a great post on the WH crackdown on leakers and the media’s reaction to it here.