Serious idea. Instead of calling it Obama’s war on whistleblowers, let’s just call it what it is: Obama’s war on journalism.
— Eli Lake (@EliLake) May 20, 2013
In 2010, while attempting to track another purported leak, this time relating to North Korea, the Justice Department claimed that Fox News reporter James Rosen could be designated “an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator” for communicating with the government source:
They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails. … Court documents in the Kim case reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist — and raise the question of how often journalists have been investigated as closely as Rosen was in 2010.
Yes, but … the leak was real, comically obvious – and deeply compromising for US intelligence in a totalitarian state. Shafer notes how badly Rosen failed to protect his source, how amateurish his techniques were, and how he was all but begging for an investigation:
The story described the CIA’s findings, “through sources inside North Korea,” of that country’s plans should an upcoming U.N. Security Council resolution pass. Although Rosen’s story asserts that it is “withholding some details about the sources and methods … to avoid compromising sensitive overseas operations,” the basic detail that the CIA has “sources inside North Korea” privy to its future plans is very compromising stuff all by itself. As Rosen continues, “U.S. spymasters regard [North Korea] as one of the world’s most difficult to penetrate.”
Once the North Koreans read the story, they must have asked if the source of the intel was human or if their communications had been breached.
And if the US government is to have any grip on how to handle that dangerous regime, it needs such sources to be protected. And what was the story in the first place? It was entirely that the US had a successful inside source in North Korea. And that seems to be it. I’m with Josh Marshall:
It’s difficult for me not to be more shocked by the self-interested preening of fellow journalists over a comically inept reporter and source than the arguable dangers this episode holds for press freedoms. Indeed, I’ve tried and failed. I can’t.