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October 23, 2005

Criminalization of Leaking Secrets Will Bite Progressives

This New York Times article details the way government secrets have always leaked to the press and makes an argument for why the likely Plame indictments may chill public information in all sorts of unexpected ways.

I actually care far less about the official government source dance with the prostrate media than the likely chilling of internal dissenters finding themselves scared to death to talk to the press about illegal skullduggery for fear of indictment. Two years ago I said that I thought the Plame disclosure should not be a crime.

That doesn't mean that I don't think that government officials shouldn't be held responsible for their attacks on people like Plame and Joe Wilson. What is needed is a real system of whistleblower protection where any retaliation against government employee's exercising free speech rights should be met with strong sanctions.

But criminalizing information disclosure, except in EXTREME circumstances, is a recipe for unaccountable government where mistakes and evil deeds are buried under top secret classficiation.

When the indictments come down this week, I'll enjoy the schadenfreude of watching the frog march of Bush officials, but in the long term it's all bad news in strengthening the secrecy of the national security state. I guarantee that the indictments against White House officials will be returned a hundredfold in the future with theats to every minor official in government to stay silent or face retaliation by the Justice Department.

We will celebrate this week -- and I'll be there cheering -- but it will bite progressives in the ass so many ways in the future that I can't count the ways.

Posted by Nathan at October 23, 2005 05:06 PM