On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) had surveyed the phone records of a journalist, James Rosen of Fox News, as part of an investigation of a leak of classified information about North Korea. The leak in question made public the possibility that U.N. sanctions could prompt North Korea to accelerate its nuclear arms development efforts.
The news comes only a week after it was revealed that, as part of a separate investigation, the DOJ had obtained phone records of Associated Press reporters. According to an analysis that appeared yesterday in The Guardian, the Obama administration has used the 1917 Espionage Act (the world hasn't changed much since 1917, has it?) to prosecute more leaks than all prior administrations combined.
When the prospects of SOPA, PIPA and now CISPA becoming law are debated, "You need not worry if you haven't done anything wrong" is a fairly common response. Reporters like James Rosen and the New York Times' Jim Risen feel otherwise, and according to The Guardian, they are not alone.
Toward the end of 2010, a time when the Wikileaks prosecution was just ramping up, I wrote a post that said in part:
In this era, strengthening the current rules and emphasizing enforcement at the cost of the Constitution are popular options, but I have another idea. Maybe we could work on having fewer secrets.
"Fewer" is a far cry from "no" secrets. In an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, James Goodale, former general counsel with the New York Times, noted that the the Obama administration classified seven million documents in a single year. If the application of law tilts away from journalists, it is easy to see how they may be buried underneath an avalanche of unilateral secrecy.