Car ferry, winter. Detroit River, c1900. This picture brings up an unusual aspect of some photography. Some of the smoke is just steam from the mix of hot air and cold air creating condensation. The other part is pollution from the coal fired steam engine. Part of the beauty of the picture is created by something ugly and harmful.
What is the difference between being a true whistle-blower and a reporter leaking classified national security information. Books have been written on this complex subject so I will not attempt to define all the differences and every situation. Though in general a whistle-blower is someone that does reveal classified information, but that information is in regards to illegal activity by the government/government officials. A leaker is someone who reveals national security information for whatever reason – the ego of the reporter, maliciousness, or ignorance – the list is as long as the reasons that can motivate someone to do something. Some may remember the biggest whistle-blower story of the modern era, the revelation by two NYT reporters that the Bush administration had skipped the courts and the warrant process ( demanded under the 4th amendment) to allow the NSA to spy at will on U.S. citizens, December 16, 2005 – Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts
Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.
Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.
“This is really a sea change,” said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. “It’s almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches.”
Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation’s legality and oversight.
The NSA or National Security Agency is a department of the Pentagon. They are barred from domestic spying based on the law and legal precedent. The NYT did what a free press is supposed to do, act as the people’s watchdogs against abuse by the government, industry or individuals. In the case of leakers that another matter. The NYT among other news services has at times acquired classified information, the government has become aware of it and explained to those news services that leaking said information may damage national security. Conservatives claimed that what the NYT did in the case of exposing clearly illegal activity (Federal Judge Finds N.S.A. Wiretaps Were Illegal) by a Republican administration, was treason. Which like their claims about Benghazi lack anything like legal justification, or rational thought. Then Bush appointee to the CIA , Porter Goss, also seemed to lack any guidance from clear headed thought, Why Are Republicans So Riled Up About Obama’s Justice Department Reading a Reporter’s E-mails When They Cheered the Bush Administration For Doing the Same Thing?
In mid-March, after Attorney General Gonzales raised publicly the possibility of prosecuting journalists, the Director of the CIA, Porter Goss, suggested that it was his “hope” and “aim” that the leak investigations would lead to subpoenas requiring me to testify about the identity of my confidential source(s). Only two months into the investigation, Goss explained: “It is my aim and it is my hope that we will witness a grand jury investigation with reporters present being asked to reveal who is leaking this information.”
Very irresponsible and politically motivated assertion by an administration crony to claim that reporters who exposed illegal activity by the government, just be held accountable to a grand jury investigation. Grand juries can be nasty instruments of the law. The rules that apply in normal courts, the ones we see in court room dramas all the time do not apply to grand juries. From that same article Kurt Eichenwald also notes that in the current controversy over the DOJ investigation of Fox News reporter (To call anyone who works at Fox a reporter is a stretch of reality) he notes that James Rosen and his source did not expose some illegal activity by the Obama administration, but exposed a national security secret about North Korea.
The Fox case involved a report by Rosen in June 2009 that American intelligence officials had issued warnings that, should the United Nations adopt sanctions that were under consideration, North Korea would begin conducting new nuclear tests. According to the F.B.I. affidavit in the case, the information was top secret and was contained in an intelligence document disseminated to a small number of government officials that same morning. The report was marked top secret.
Fox news and James Rosen are not whistle-blowers. They exposed national security secrets to a foreign power, for whatever reason. They broke the law and compromised national security. The Obama administration, or rather the DOJ and FBI may have been too zealous, but they did follow the law and obtain warrants. America seems to be having difficulty hearing the story of how Fox News, who is for all practical purposes the communications office of the Republican Party, probably committed treason.