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Open Thread: Treasury Terror Transaction Tracking

Holy Alliteration, Batman!
What do you all think about the ire that the fourth estate is taking for the publication of stories revealing how the Treasury Department monitored and interdicted flows to and from terrorists?

Are the resoulutions in Congress condemning the articles (and those who leaked the info to the papers, as well) a pander to the conservative base of the GOP or do you accept the arguement that because lives or the national security is at risk that the government has the right to coerce the press into holding stories from publication?

Greetings from Munich. I am stuffed full of pork and beer, but I've been thinking a while how to best approach this.

I think that directly approaching the issue may be counterproductive because all of the components are so ideologically loaded, and thoughts will be based on: perceptions of the administration, perceptions of the NY Times and the MSM, partisan identification, ideology concerning the security/liberty balance, etc.

Instead, Brian, I propose a thought experiment to which I'd be very interested to hear your answer:

Assuming ex arguendo that there is a virtue (absolute or not) to keeping classified information classified, under what conditions is it good public policy/moral/the right thing to do/whatever to publish that classified information.

Then, after we have some good standards, let's see if the Swift story meets those conditions.

One final thought: believing that publishing the story is bad policy/immoral/whatever does not necessarily entail prosecution. I think that there are probably additional conditions of a higher scrutiny that need to be met before media are prosecuted to balance national security interests and potential chill effects.

Let me clarify. When I say:
Assuming ex arguendo that there is a virtue (absolute or not) to keeping classified information classified, under what conditions is it good public policy/moral/the right thing to do/whatever to publish that classified information.

I mean:
Assuming ex arguendo that there is a virtue (absolute or not, that is to say if its not absolute it can be weighed against other considerations) to keeping classified information classified, under what conditions is it good public policy/moral/the right thing to do/whatever to publish a specific piece of classified information.

OOOh... daddy like!
Mazel Tov on a safe passage, Jack.
I'll think about it and get back to you.

So I spent most of my day today thinking about this and making kick ass sandwhiches at the market.

My response will focus on the issues it raises vis-a-vis the dialogue in Book 1 of the Republic - and I will outline why that's relevant, as well.
I haven't decided which side I will ultimately champion, b/c in part I want the option to remain open to me in the future and in part because I'm honestly not sure there is a correct response.
and I can argue it round or argue it flat. If I were getting paid for a particular position, well, that would be it.

I believe there is an obligation to keep classified information classified. The problem with leakers/whistleblowers, is that they rarely have all the information. Thus they leak information without knowing the impact of it. I tihnk it is a bad standard to say those who have privledged information can break that privledge if they see fit, because their analysis is most likely myotic and narrow in scope. Now I believe that there are some cases where a person would be morally compelled to speak out about what the government is doing. I tihnk the standard should be this. If you are willing to quit your job and speak on the record then it is worth breaking your confidence, if you want some kind of protection of your identity, then it is probably not important enough to speak out about.

In terms of the MSM reporting, that's their job. They report what they hear. It is the governments responsiblity to keep them from getting the information but if it is true then their is nothing wrong with the media publishing it.

"I tihnk the standard should be this. If you are willing to quit your job and speak on the record then it is worth breaking your confidence, if you want some kind of protection of your identity, then it is probably not important enough to speak out about."

I think, in specific response to your standard, that it is insufficient. First, the job standard. While I certainly don't mean to belittle the peril one faces when leaving one career basically permanently (as leaking would, I'm guessing - unless a rival firm/agency/etc. hires them) it just doesn't seem imposing enough of a bar to be the hurdle one has to get over. The average American worker goes through 7 careers these days. I think most people are getting around to the idea of that and its more acceptable.

Secondly, while I will admit to 90%+ of "spoke on the condition of anonymity" references to be patent lies, the ability for reporters to protect their sources from reprisal (including grievous bodily harm to themselves or kin) should be sacrasanct. It would violate the harm principle to force someone with a family to speak on the record if there was an imminent threat.

Now, note that I said "imminent threat." What constitutes that? I don't know.

What is most diturbing to me is the ambiguity of the moral standard. I mean, really, that varies with the quality of the would be leaker gets from whoever he confides in.

See the next post for my thought experiment on the more philosophical issues.

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