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Leaks and whistleblowing

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Whistleblowers and the media: A brief overview of famous leakers and the ethical issues they raise.

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Leaks and whistleblowing

  1. 1. Whistleblowers and the media A brief overview of famous leakers and the ethical issues they raise
  2. 2. The First Amendment is for everyone — the “lonely pamphleteer” as much as “the large metropolitan publisher.”
  3. 3. The First Amendment is for everyone — the “lonely pamphleteer” as much as “the large metropolitan publisher.” Which means there are no special constitutional protections for news organizations (or leakers).
  4. 4. Daniel Ellsberg • Leaked the Pentagon Papers, secret history of the Vietnam War
  5. 5. Daniel Ellsberg • Leaked the Pentagon Papers, secret history of the Vietnam War • Accused of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, faced 115 years
  6. 6. Daniel Ellsberg • Leaked the Pentagon Papers, secret history of the Vietnam War • Accused of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, faced 115 years • Censorship rejected, but Nixon explored charges against press
  7. 7. Ellsberg’s supporters said he served the public interest by revealing official doubts about the war.
  8. 8. Ellsberg’s supporters said he served the public interest by revealing official doubts about the war. So why shouldn’t he have been protected from prosecution? What problems would that raise?
  9. 9. Warrantless wiretapping • The New York Times won a 2006 Pulitzer for exposing NSA program
  10. 10. Warrantless wiretapping • The New York Times won a 2006 Pulitzer for exposing NSA program • George W. Bush called the Times’ reporting “a shameful act”
  11. 11. Warrantless wiretapping • The New York Times won a 2006 Pulitzer for exposing NSA program • George W. Bush called the Times’ reporting “a shameful act” • Attorney General Gonzales threated the Times with prosecution
  12. 12. The Times exposed a program that appeared to be a straightforward violation of federal law.
  13. 13. The Times exposed a program that appeared to be a straightforward violation of federal law. How could the Bush administration and its allies consider criminal charges for revealing illegalities?
  14. 14. Good leakers and bad • CIA operative Valerie Plame’s cover is blown, prompting a probe
  15. 15. Good leakers and bad • CIA operative Valerie Plame’s cover is blown, prompting a probe • Judith Miller goes to jail rather than reveal her source
  16. 16. Good leakers and bad • CIA operative Valerie Plame’s cover is blown, prompting a probe • Judith Miller goes to jail rather than reveal her source • Freed when Lewis “Scooter” Libby gave her permission
  17. 17. The Plame leak appeared to be an act of political retribution with no larger public purpose.
  18. 18. The Plame leak appeared to be an act of political retribution with no larger public purpose. Is there any practical way we could protect the leakers we like and punish the leakers we don’t? Who decides?
  19. 19. Chelsea Manning • Provided vast troves of classified information to WikiLeaks
  20. 20. Chelsea Manning • Provided vast troves of classified information to WikiLeaks • Exposed abuses but also revealed names of undercover operatives
  21. 21. Chelsea Manning • Provided vast troves of classified information to WikiLeaks • Exposed abuses but also revealed names of undercover operatives • WikiLeaks founder Assange is holed up in Ecuadorian embassy
  22. 22. What should our response be when there’s ambiguity as to whether a leaker’s actions served the public good?
  23. 23. What should our response be when there’s ambiguity as to whether a leaker’s actions served the public good? Should the (limited) publication rights afforded to the news media be extended to groups such as WikiLeaks?
  24. 24. Edward Snowden • Like Daniel Ellsberg, he leaked to established news organizations
  25. 25. Edward Snowden • Like Daniel Ellsberg, he leaked to established news organizations • Exposure of NSA led to Pulitzer Prizes for two newspapers
  26. 26. Edward Snowden • Like Daniel Ellsberg, he leaked to established news organizations • Exposure of NSA led to Pulitzer Prizes for two newspapers • “The Snowden effect”: Congress scales back bulk data collection
  27. 27. As with Daniel Ellsberg, many people believe Edward Snowden’s leaks served the public interest.
  28. 28. As with Daniel Ellsberg, many people believe Edward Snowden’s leaks served the public interest. Also as with Ellsberg, leaks led to criminal charges against the leaker and threats against the press.
  29. 29. Obama’s war on leakers • More aggressive than any previous president — seven prosecutions
  30. 30. Obama’s war on leakers • More aggressive than any previous president — seven prosecutions • Journalists like James Risen become collateral damage of this war
  31. 31. Obama’s war on leakers • More aggressive than any previous president — seven prosecutions • Journalists like James Risen become collateral damage of this war • CPJ reports Obama’s anti-leak efforts have had a chilling effect
  32. 32. If whistleblowing is vital to the press’ role as a watchdog of government, is there some way we can protect it?
  33. 33. If whistleblowing is vital to the press’ role as a watchdog of government, is there some way we can protect it? Who gets to decide which whistleblowers deserve protection and which don’t?

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