Department of Justice, seen here plotting. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
Department of Justice, seen here plotting. (J. David Ake/Associated Press)

Eugene Robinson writes in his column today that it is a big problem when the Obama administration can snoop into reporters’ telephone and email records whenever it suspects someone is leaking to reporters classified information relating to national security. Because just about everything, it could be argued, relates to national security, even some stuff for which we’re grateful was leaked to the press and published. And, Robinson says, a Justice Department accountable only to itself, prosecuting leaks and reading important news emails is a scary thing.

Of foremost importance to the commenters on Robinson’s piece is the appearance that he has switched sides. Because Robinson has vigorously supported the president in the past, he,  by the sacred rules of the Internet, is formally required to support the president in every matter that ever comes up.

Uncle_and_Auntie_Pasto apparently predicted this specific occurrence five years ago:

We tried to warn you back in ’08 Eugene, but did you listen? Nooo, you didn’t listen.

strawn cannot believe Robinson could possibly find fault with the Obama administration:

Okay, who wrote Robinson’s column today?

PepperDr, though, argues that Robinson is merely self-interested:

His masters at the Post are to blame. All journalists who fail to toe the party line that journalists can violate the law in the name of the First Amendment will soon be terminated or assigned to cat-up-in-a-tree articles.

Okay, but pets-in-distress stories can be AWESOME. So Robinson shouldn’t be too upset in his new assignment.

knoxscoop backs Robinson up on why leaks are important and necessary:

Read up on Daniel Ellsburg and the Pentagon Papers for an illustration of why govt. leaks and their publication are essential to our freedoms. What Ellsburg leaked was evidence of govt. lies about the course of the Vietnam war. The DOJ tried to prosecute him and the NY Times. Ellsburg’s actions almost certainly helped end the war and save thousands of American lives.

detsteve shows that we don’t all agree on that:

At best Ellsberg helped force a cease fire agreement that led to the eventual murder of millions of South Vietnamese and Cambodian citizens. He wasn’t found guilty of treason, but he was most assuredly a traitor and the NYT closed another in a long line of its shameful ‘journalistic’ chapters.

While archeopteryx says there’s no guarantee leaks to journalists are for the greater good:

Who’s spying on whom? I’m not allowed to leak classified info. Why is the press sacrosanct? Are they better judges of what should be classified than the government? Is that their motivation? Or is it to make a buck?

armyofone also finds fault with one of Robinson’s examples of “good” leaking:

It would be one thing to reveal that the CIA had a network of secret prisons. That was a legitimate public policy concern which should be debated. However, the media went beyond that to discuss WHERE such prisons were located, thereby putting future cooperation with those nations on a whole host of other matters other than just renditions into jeopardy.

That’s the problem with leaking such information. The leakers and the recipients of the leak don’t seem to have a moral compass as to what information is so egregious that it merits public disclosure of wrongdoing. That’s the key; there must be WRONGDOING in order for the leak to rise to the level that the public good to be achieved by the leak outweighs the disclosure of classified information. In Daniel Ellsberg’s case, the wrongdoing was that he and other analysts were musing internally about the merits of the war while the public was being lied to and 200 body bags per week were coming home. A similar case could be made about CIA renditions, and the reasons why we went into Iraq.

However, there is a BIG DIFFERENCE between exposing that kind of wrongdoing, versus the media having a license to leak classified information any time it feels like it. I strongly approve of the efforts undertaken by the Obama Administration to shut down leaks. Perhaps one day in the future when the media regains its moral compass about what is WRONGDOING and what is not something that should be published, then they can again be trusted with a license to publish such information.

PostScript isn’t sure on what basis armyofone alleges that the modern media is recklessly publishing dangerous secrets “any time it feels like it” without regard for national security or the existence of all-caps WRONGDOING. We are unaware of this dangerous trend. Perhaps armyofone is privy to secret information about this important subject. Maybe the Justice Department should find out.