Privacy SOS

Outrage on leak hypocrisy may lead to a harsh ‘secrets act,’ advocate warns

President Obama has overseen an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, indicting six people in just three years — more than all prior presidents combined. But his administration is now under fire for hypocrisy, accused of leaking sensitive or classified information to reporters in order to glorify the President.

Republican critics say the administration should investigate the leaking of detailed information on the "kill list" and the cyberwar Stuxnet virus to reporters. Advocacy groups charge the administration with hypocrisy, saying it deploys leaks to serve its interests while simultaneously throwing the book at people who leak information it wants kept secret.

Another observer wonders if the administration first declassified information and then fed it to the press, a move that might bother one's sense of fairness but remains within the law. That seems possible given President Obama's careful choice of words before the press: "The notion that my White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive, it's wrong."

Among Republicans, John McCain has been leading the rhetorical charge:

The fact that this administration would aggressively pursue leaks perpetrated by a 22-year-old Army private in the WikiLeaks matter, former CIA employees in other leaks cases, but apparently sanction leaks made by senior administration officials for political purposes is simply unacceptable,” he said.

Attorney Jesselyn Radak of the Government Accountability Project also sees hypocrisy, but is worried that the heated partisan discourse will lead to an "unintended consequence": stricter laws to more broadly and harshly punish whistleblowers. Watch:

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© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.