Knight Center
Knight Center


U.S. federal investigation into national security leaks raises concerns over "witch hunt" for journalists' sources

Prompting concerns of a "witch hunt" for reporters' sources, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has assigned two federal prosecutors to lead two separate criminal investigations to find who leaked national security information to The New York Times, the Times itself reported on Friday, June 8. The Obama administration has been accused of leaking the classified information to The New York Times, which used the information to publish stories on cyber attacks against Iran, and a terrorist "kill list."

On Friday President Obama denied that his administration was behind the leaks, and said that those responsible would be prosecuted. “Since I’ve been in office, my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation,” Obama said, as quoted by The New York Times. His "zero tolerance" is evidenced by the fact that six whistleblowers have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act since Obama took office -- that's more than under all previous administrations combined, NPR said, making eyebrows raise about why the administration at first remained mum on these latest leaks.

David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times, defended his reporting on the cyber attacks against Iran and said he didn't believe that the leaks were politically motivated, as Republicans claim, according to the Los Angeles Times. Republicans have called for the Armed Services Committee to conduct hearings on the leaks, Politico said. Dean Baquet, managing editor of The New York Times, said it is a journalist's job to report on issues of national security, the Huffington Post reported.

Pulitzer-winning investigative reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of Watergate fame expressed concern over Congress' apparent witch hunt to reveal journalists' sources.

"You've got to be very careful about creating a witch hunt for sources, and a witch hunt in which you go after reporters, because now more than ever we need real reporting on this presidency, on national security, on all of these areas," Bernstein said, according to CBS News.

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times called on Congress "not to criminalize the reporting of information that may have come into the possession of the media because a government official was indiscreet."

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