We hope this will resolve the matter. In our view, the pressure on DOJ has gone too far and Rosenstein has been right to stand up for his department’s legitimate concerns about confidentiality. Reluctance to diclose confidential information is consistent with prosecutors’ longstanding practice of declining to comment on an investigation while still in process. This is not merely a practice that should be continued because “we’ve always done it this way.” It protects the integrity of the investigation and is required of prosecutors by the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, which governs their conduct. The manual provides that prosecutors should not reveal information about a criminal investigation unless “the community needs to be reassured that the appropriate law enforcement agency is investigating a matter” or “where release of information is necessary to protect the public safety.” Neither of those conditions apply in this case.

More broadly, the problem is that disclosing the inner workings of a criminal investigation risks exposing it to improper external influences. The consequences of exposure can doom an ongoing investigation. Confidentiality protects against witness tampering, intimidation or harm; preserves the ability to collect evidence and to safeguard against its destruction; provides safety for confidential sources who might not otherwise come forward; shields subjects or targets of investigations from being publicly accused where there is insufficient evidence to support an indictment; and preserves certain rights of possible defendants. There are additional considerations, including national security interests and laws governing confidentiality, such as for example grand jury secrecy.