When should releasing classified information be prosecutable?

Libby has been indicted for nothing more than making a false statement, but the underlying alleged crime that some think he committed was releasing classified information to the press. Of course, a few moments’ reflection can yield plenty of examples where classified information getting out has been a good thing for the nation. Generally, it seems that we’ve trusted to the discretion and judgement of the press that they will not release anything that would lead to imminent disaster; but now many in the press are themselves the ones leading the charge agains Libby.

I’ll propose what I see as three obvious truths.

  1. Criminalizing all leaks of classified information is a stupid idea. As noted, there are times where it’s been very good in the long run. Moreover, I don’t know the process by which information is made “classified” but ISTM that an admin could just start making all sorts of things classified that they didn’t want out; I’d assume that the reasons something is classified are themselves also classified, so there’d be little to stop a Nixon from just making all the Watergate stuff “classified” and prosecuting leakers.

  2. At least some leaks should be criminal. Obviously, that was the idea behind the law that Libby was suspected to have broken: “Joe Spy is an American agent inside the KGB” might get Joe killed.

  3. If people critical of the government are allowed to use leaks to attack it, the government needs equal leeway. If Jim Reporter is going to out Joe Spy working in Russia, it seems absurd to say that the administration cannot in turn leak that Joe Reporter is himself a KGB agent. (Please note that I am NOT saying that that is the exact equavalent of this case. I am only asserting that there needs to be a basic fairness.)

Within those parameters, though, there is still a huge amount of grey area. What specific and/or theoretical guidelines would you propose for when leaks are to be criminal?

I hope we can avoid asinine drivebys of the “when the administration is evil” sort, though that is probably a forlorn dream…

If the “government” want to release information that is classified, they already have a remedy: declassify it.

The case against Libby is that as a private citizen he decided to leak information that was classified. His political motivations are not (or should not) an issue.

I am puzzled as to your question as to when leaks should be criminal. Isn’t it clear? It’s criminal when it is classified.

That’s certainly the case as it was taught to me in my security briefings. If it’s classified in any way and you let it go you are liable for prosecution. How hard is that?

If you call being charged with obstruction of justice and two counts of “lying to the FBI” “nothing.” But “making a false statement” sounds so much better, doesn’t it?

re Sandy berger:

So we should have gone after the people that leaked The Pentagon Papers and put them in jail? We should arrest the people that have leaked information about the Bush’s Iraq plans and policies? I disagree.

Squink: I stand by what I said; I don’t see how it’s germane. Berger was not releasing information, he was destroying it. If any members of the Bush admin have engaged in illegal coverups, I want them jailed, too.

But he issue here is the press freedom, and the release of information. It is because I don’t want coverups that I see a problem. ISTM that prosecuting leakers is going to tend to reduce whistleblowing.

There it is again… :rolleyes:
Whistle blowing is the exposure of fraud and abuse by an employee, owners or governments that are defrauding the public are the target of it.

What Libby did was NOT Whistle blowing. The end result of the leak was to ensure the case for war (a fraud as the evidence is telling us now) was not in doubt, but more germane to the case: it compromised the security of many in a failed attempt to quiet dissent.

“If Karl Rove is a whistleblower, then Jeff Gannon is a whistle!” -Randi Rhodes.

I’m not sure I follow this, but I take it you are disagreeing with point 3) in my OP?

Correct, your calls for basic fairness are silly because the reality is that Wilson made the whistleblowing, what the government did then was a reprisal against Wilson. There are whistle-blowing laws that prohibit reprisals against those who exposed government corruption, the reason being that governments and corporations have more resources to organize fraud and quiet dissent than one of his members, what you propose in reality is to codify injustice.

At the risk of taking this thread off on a tangent, I’m going to throw this out but don’t plan on going further unless in a Wilson thread …

  1. Shouldn’t “whistle-blowing” require outing the truth …

  2. Your “reprisal” is my effort to discredit untruths being spread about an important issue

There’s a specific law about revealing a CIA agent. It was passed at the request of the first President Bush, who had been head of the CIA. He said the outing of a CIA agent is treason.