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» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » Creating an exemption for disclosure of classified material

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Author Topic: Creating an exemption for disclosure of classified material
LetterRip
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I think that 'public interest' should to some degree trump state secrets, and thus we should have some excemptions for criminalization of disclosure of classified materials.

Here is what I wrote in another thread,

quote:
I believe that we do need some sort of narrow immunity for both the press and leakers regarding classified material. Clearly any criminal or unseemly behaviour, or behaviour by the government potentially against the public interest should have exemption. That would cover things like Deep Throat, some of the materials released by Manning, Abu Ghraib, etc. Things that a person of reasonable conscious would feel compelled to disclose and that it is in the public interest to have debate upon
Other exemptions might be lies - evidence that contradicts public pronouncements by the military or government - probably that would fall under unseemly behavior above. Whistleblowing in general (again already covered above but phrased differently).

Any other suggestions for exemptions?

So, where should the line be drawn?

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TomDavidson
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Who gets to determine what's potentially against the public interest? And what happens if something is leaked that is determined to not be a legitimate leak, but still embarrasses or endangers someone?

Bear in mind that I'm largely on your side on this one. But I hav/e no idea how you're going to make this practical. Remember that in your scenario, there may be military officers ignoring the chain of command to pass intel to the media based on their opinion of the moral weight of that intel. Who gets to determine whether that was correct? And even if that action is forgiven, do we trust that military officer with sensitive material again?

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G3
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Clearly a lot of where the line should be drawn depends on the politics of the leakers doesn't it?
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LetterRip
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TomD,

quote:
Who gets to determine what's potentially against the public interest?
This is why there is a need for guidelines - we can classify previous leaks as examples of what is and isn't legitimate disclosure and why they were or were not. If a new case can be clearly shown to fall into a previously classified event, then we would have precedent. If their isn't precedent - then it would likely be decided by a jury, and they jury would be instructed to determine where it would fall on the line of reasonable belief that it was in the legimate public interest.

Regarding passing on to the media - actually I'd like some sort of independent body that leaks can be passed to that can then determine whether the information should become public or not.

quote:
Remember that in your scenario, there may be military officers ignoring the chain of command to pass intel to the media based on their opinion of the moral weight of that intel.
Actually I'd prefer things not go direct to the media - I don't consider the media particularly trustworthy in determining what is in the public interest - they act to serve their own commercial interests which are primarily about sensationalism and other ways to attract eye balls. I think we need some sort of third party that can be 'leaked' to and determines whether to pass it on.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
we can classify previous leaks as examples of what is and isn't legitimate disclosure and why they were or were not
I know you're speaking off the cuff, here, but I think you'll find this to be an impossible task for almost any diverse group of "we" you pick.

quote:
actually I'd like some sort of independent body that leaks can be passed to that can then determine whether the information should become public or not
First obvious problem: every intelligence organization in the world will subvert the people on that committee.
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LetterRip
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TomD,

for 'definitely legitimate' and 'definitely not legitimate' - I think most of the important things will be covered.

The individuals would have to be vetted for such a committee - probably same vetting process we have for others that are exposed to sensitive information.

I doubt most of the stuff would be of interest to foreign intelligence services - any who are interested probably already have individuals with access to such materials who are already compromised.

Also, historically lots of journalists have been spies, both for the US interests and foreign interests

http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reportsitem.aspx?id=101913

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/745535.stm

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/01/are-chinas-journalists-spying-on-us/267098/

http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php

[ June 03, 2013, 08:24 PM: Message edited by: LetterRip ]

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WmLambert
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Perhaps you're looking for objective criteria that will set standards not influenced by partisan groups within government?

Not easy to preclude all subjectivity - but maybe getting there piecemeal may be in order.

Too much is cloaked beneath "privacy issues" in the Constitution - but understand that there really is no privacy right written there. It is a derived concept - and moot. Most crimes are not done in daylight, they are hidden away. For instance, if the bedroom is ruled off limits, then pederasty prospers.

From a personal viewpoint, I believe the real culprit is in media bias. If most secrets are transparent, a spin can be made on any action that can injure or aid a person or cause. If honest and scrupulously correct, then knowledge of secrets should make the action stand on its own potential. Good action should be understandable and point toward good effects. Bad action should be required to explain itself.

Since there are bad people in the world, opposing them is dangerous and there should be secrets kept to protect those in harm's way. However, if the issue is not linked to a personal protection one, then why not allow transparency. The only thing really standing in the way is the Fifth Amendment, but the idea of fruit from a poisoned tree should not.

If a person is guilty of a crime, but the evidence is tainted, many bad people get off on a technicality. Proof of guilt should not be proscribed. If getting the information that proves guilt is criminal, then punish the investigator who crossed the line - but keep the information usable and legal.

How does "how obtained" trump "information secured?"

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Seneca
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The problem with making laws like this is that these kind of laws only matter if the government agrees to follow them.

The more sane approach is to cut the government down to size so they stop having personnel and resources to do this kind of thing even if they want to.

That starts with dismantling the NSA.

[ June 06, 2013, 03:28 PM: Message edited by: Seneca ]

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seagull
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Dismantling the NSA is a very BAD idea.

The people currently employed by the NSA would not stop knowing what they know. They will just go out and do it freelance or for large shady organizations. The NSA may not be much better than RBN but I am not ready to hand control over the cyberworld to RBN and I'd rather have the NSA keeping tabs on them than having a US version of a cyber-crime organization doing that job.

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AI Wessex
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Rep. Steve King (R) on freedom of the press:
quote:
Representative Peter King (R-NY) on Tuesday night said that journalists who revealed secret government programs should face criminal charges.

Discussing the recent news about the National Security Agency, CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked the Republican if he believed journalists should be punished for reporting on leaked information.

“Actually, if they willing knew that this was classified information, I think action should be taken, especially on something of this magnitude,” King responded. “I know that the whole issue of leaks has been gone into over the last month. I think something on this magnitude, there is an obligation, both moral but also legal, I believe, against a reporter disclosing something which would so severely compromise national security.”

“As a practical matter, I guess there have been in the past several years, a number of reporters who have been prosecuted under it,” he added. “So the answer is yes to your question.”


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AI Wessex
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Oops, Peter King!
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