Old and busted: Eric Holder attacked free speech by going after James Rosen! New hotness: Prosecute reporters who published leaked material. So says Rep. Peter King in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, turning one scandal at the Department of Justice on its head while lashing out at the revelation of another at NSA (via Twitchy):
Er, sure, let’s prosecute reporters for all of the leaks they publish. Except for the ones we want published, though … right? Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue leak information to reporters (and bloggers, for that matter) all the time. Most of it isn’t classified, but it if it wasn’t at least sensitive, it wouldn’t need to be leaked. It would end up in a press release that few bother to read at all.
For instance, the Obama administration was delighted to leak information from the Osama bin Laden raid. They were less happy about leaks from another successful raid on terrorists in Yemen when it turned out they wanted to release the information themselves, which is what led to the AP investigation. In Congress, both sides leaked the parts of a long e-mail string about the Benghazi talking points they acquired in the probe long before the White House declassified a large portion of it. Why don’t we prosecute Congress and the White House while we’re at it? And is King and his office choirboys on leaks? I’d love to hear from reporters on that, but they won’t burn their sources just to score a cheap rhetorical point.
We don’t prosecute reporters who publish leaks; we prosecute the leakers, because they’re the people who got cleared in the first place. The distinction is important not just because the government has great power to keep information secret from the public that can shield them from accountability, but also great prosecutorial power that could easily be used to intimidate a heretofore free press and turn them into a propaganda industry afraid to criticize Big Brother. It’s a bad idea on many levels.