"Transparent" White House cracking down hard on leakers

But legal experts and good-government advocates say the hard-line approach to leaks has a chilling effect on whistleblowers, who fear harsh legal reprisals if they dare to speak up.

Not only that, these advocates say, it runs counter to Obama’s pledges of openness by making it a crime to shine a light on the inner workings of government – especially when there are measures that could protect the nation’s interests without hauling journalists into court and government officials off to jail…

Yet Goldsmith notes an apparent double standard: top White House and administration officials give unauthorized information to Washington reporters almost daily, but authorities will come down hard if rank-and-file employees get caught doing the same thing. “Top officials frequently leak classified information and nothing happens to them,” he said.

Still, leak prosecutions brought under Obama amount to “almost twice as many as all previous presidents put together,” noted Daniel Ellsberg, who changed history and helped set a legal precedent when he handed the Pentagon’s top-secret assessment of the Vietnam War to New York Times reporters four decades ago. “The campaign here against whistleblowers is actually unprecedented in legal terms.”