A decade ago Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed government lies about the Vietnam War by leaking the Pentagon Papers, told me government’s objective going after him was a UK-styled Official Secrets Act that undermines First Amendment protections. Beyond criminalizing leaking classified materials, it would criminalize seeking and publishing them.
I recently asked James C. Goodale, who defended the NY Times in that case, if that’s still the aim. “Yes,” Goodale says, “closing the circle, prosecuting those who receive and publish leaks. The wild over-classification of documents systematically confuses confidentiality with national security, deterring finding out and revealing what government does. It’s already put a chill on journalists covering the military establishment, and leaks are drying up. Assange engaged in journalistic endeavors.” Goodale is alarmed that despite overwhelming recognition of this by international journalist and human rights organizations, American media remains mostly comatose regarding the peril.