Leaking Everywhere

Today in National Journal, Bill Powers adds an international perspective to the U.S. debate over leaking and anonymous sources.

“America’s media culture is just a tad self-absorbed, and we tend to assume that our problems are singular. Thus, the current debate about leaks and protecting sources is typically framed as a result of peculiarly domestic happenings. It took off with the Valerie Plame story. It went into overdrive a few weeks ago when reporters for The New York Times and The Washington Post won Pulitzer Prizes for their stories about secret government operations. And the CIA’s firing of suspected leaker Mary McCarthy raised the pitch even higher,” he writes. “[It’s] surprising…that other democratic countries are struggling with the same questions we’re facing, about anonymous sources, the law, and the press.”

“Why is this question popping up in so many places at once? Partly it’s because the Washington-driven war on terror has raised the stakes of secrecy everywhere. But it’s also a result of a broader trend you might call the digitization of society. Technology has made all kinds of information, from consumer data to satellite imagery, more accessible. And governments, corporations, and other entities that have an interest in keeping secrets find that accessibility threatening. Greater openness paradoxically breeds more secrecy. And reporters live at the intersection of the two trends.”