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Journalists need to refrain from publishing legitimate secrets

Posted by John Reed on

I think Trump should sue the media when they lie about him or have Justice file legal action in the case of criminal leaks. I know all about the difficulty because of having to prove actual malice and all that.

So what? Do it anyway. It will force them to file an answer and give Trump and/or the Justice Department subpoena power. He/Justice will demand the identity of the unidentified slanderous or criminal. The reporters will make a big show of refusing even though the Constitution that guarantees freedom of the press says nothing about shielding sources. There are some state shield laws, but they may not be constitutional.

A judge in one or more of the cases—especially those involving national security—is likely to jail the reporter who refuses to provide source identities. Ask Judith Miller.


As a journalist myself, I have publicly said I will identify an unidentified source to a court if so ordered—because I think the idea that I do not have to is a media fantasy. The media wishes there were such a Constitutional protection but wishing does not make it so.

I suggested to my sources who do not wish to be identified that they not tell me who they are. But then I cannot use anything they tell me unless they tell me where to find admissible evidence of what they allege. If they do, my source is not the unidentified person, but rather the documents or on-the-record witness they told me how to find.

Journalists need to be more conscious of the harm that can come to the nation from revealing legitimate military, government, and personal privacy secrets. They strike me as overly eager for scoops, Pulitzers, ratings, advancing the Left’s agenda, subscribers, personal attention and fame and career advancement than they are of protecting legitimate, important secrets. They should be held accountable for that. The First Amendment is not a blank check and it makes no mention of the right to reveal legitimate secrets.

All leakers are moral cowards. But some of the material leaked should have been disclosed to the public because it involves illegal cover-ups by powerful people. In other cases, the leaker is scum trying to hurt an enemy with lies or revelation of legitimate secrets or trying to advance his own career or other interest. Journalists are insufficiently interested in making sure that is not the case before using the source.

One unwritten journalistic rule that is rarely invoked is the leaker subsequently making public false statements that require the reporter to sin by silence when he should protest, making the reporter an accomplice to the new transgression.

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