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Archive for May 29th, 2013

Walter Pincus, the law, journalists … and the chilling effect of Obama’s war on whistleblowers

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When Walter Pincus — Polk, Emmy, and Pulitzer winner — speaks about the intersection of national security, the First Amendment, and journalism, I listen. So should journalists who reacted as I did to the Department of Justice’s labeling of Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “co-conspirator.”

Pincus, a national security reporter for The Washington Post, led a WashPo commentary with this:

When will journalists take responsibility for what they do without circling the wagons and shouting that the First Amendment is under attack?

Pincus, who received a Georgetown law degree when he was 68, dissected the Rosen case as a lawyer rather than a journalist in his piece bearing the hed Circling the media wagons. He wrote:

The case should be described as a State Department contract worker who signed a non-disclosure agreement, yet is alleged to have leaked Top Secret/Special Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) in violation of criminal law. He also is alleged to have lied to the FBI.

Search for a story analyzing damage to intelligence collection caused by the leak and what will emerge are stories about the threat to the First Amendment and journalists.

Pincus recounts the connections between Rosen and Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a senior intelligence adviser in the State Department’s Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation, almost hour by hour. Pincus differentiates between whistleblower and criminal act:

The person or persons who told the Associated Press about the CIA operation that infiltrated al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Kim — or someone else — who informed Rosen about North Korea, were not whistleblowers exposing government misdeeds. They harmed national security and broke the law. [emphasis added]

For Pincus, the law clearly supports the DOJ’s decision to label Rosen as a potential criminal. He is, apparently, appalled that the bulk of the journalism community had a knee-jerk reaction to this as yet another threat to the First Amendment. The reaction of the journalism community, he suggested, may mirror the response of the White House Correspondents’ Association:

The White House Correspondents’ Association board issued a statement May 21 saying, “Reporters should never be threatened with prosecution for the simple act of doing their jobs.” But it admitted, “We do not know all of the facts in these cases.” The board added: “Our country was founded on the principle of freedom of the press and nothing is more sacred to our profession.”

I worry that many other journalists think that last phrase should be “nothing is more sacred than our profession.” [emphasis in original]

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 29, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized