Peter Scheer, an attorney and executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, says that the leak of Afghanistan war documents to Wikileaks represents a sea change in how reporters will report on national security issues.
He points out that Wikileaks was founded after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals of court orders in the Scooter Libby case from journalists who were forced to reveal confidential sources.
- The Supreme Court’s inaction laid bare the vulnerability of American journalists to the coercive power of federal judges who are determined to extract information for a grand jury or trial. Most journalists can’t or won’t go to jail to protect a source. And those who would do so may find that their employer, typically a public corporation with an obligation to shareholders, doesn’t share their commitment to civil disobedience. Even without the intervention of courts, federal agencies conducting national security investigations can gain access to reporters’ phone records, often without the reporters’ ever knowing about it.
- Wikileaks, in short, is a response to journalists’ loss of control over their information.
- Using technology both to erase leakers’ fingerprints and to place wikileaks and its files effectively beyond the reach of any one country’s judicial process, wikileaks offers a degree of anonymity and security that, while imperfect, exceeds the capability of US media companies.[MORE]