More obloquy ...

On the matter of warrant applications suggesting criminal activities by reporter James Rosen in pursuit of classified information, Josh Marshall issues this coy invitation:

At the risk of drawing more obloquy upon myself, I have to second the questions Jack Shafer raises in this piece just published by Reuters: What was James Rosen Thinking?

Please don't make him beg like that.

If Rosen's sloppiness is as bad as the disregard for free speech in this matter, or at least deserves as much mention, then how do reporters know that they have been protected by government restraint in the past? It seems rather that their own superior competence in a cat-and-mouse game has kept them untouched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

What has been happening over the past few years, in what has been mistaken by civil libertarians and open-government advocates as a war on whistleblowers, has been a systematic removal of all the springs and shock absorbers that have made the leaking of classified information a mere vice for bigshots and their press contacts, part of the vast ugly barter of politics.

Before there can be a review of the expanding secrecy of government, there has to be a crisis. The most effective crisis, with least damage to national security, would be actual enforcement of secrecy laws.

Ordinary people do not risk national security. Nor do they judge for themselves what national security entails.

The people who enjoy an insider's view also enjoy the privilege of abusing classification -- by leaking, or by over-classifying, or by making misleading claims that cannot be corrected without disclosing secrets.

If some instance of leaking serves national security, then someone inside is taking advantage of secrecy for political reasons. That's the problem.

The corrective to date has been a just-kidding policy, which has only increased insider control of information.

Reporters have never been immune from efforts to identify their sources, and there are plenty of historic examples of efforts to identify sources directly, indirectly, and through subpoenas or contempt proceedings. The big picture has involved restraint, but this isn't far removed from historic exceptions to the general practice of restraint.