Why I don’t defend James Rosen or the government

12:21 pm in Uncategorized by Libby Spencer

James Rosen

Crossposted at The Impolitic

It seems my friend Dan at Pruning Shears and I are having a disagreement. I don’t think we’re actually as far apart on the government surveillance of the media as he does. I think I made rather clear in my earlier post on James Rosen and also on the AP records grab that I don’t condone secret government surveillance on the media — or anyone. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that the government conducted these investigations illegally. The laws that make it possible have been creeping into our judicial system long before the Obama administration arrived. And let’s not lose sight of the fact that Rosen isn’t being charged with a crime regardless of the dicey allegations made by the government to get its authorization for his records.

Booman and I differ on that point. I don’t consider Rosen a criminal. I think he’s an irresponsible journalist. Rosen’s email to his source made clear his main interest was in scooping his competitors, not in changing any policy. However, his piece was written in a way that revealed our intelligence operation. If he had simply done the usual anon source says N. Korea will blah, blah blah… without revealing we had an inside source in N. Korea and had lost track of their missiles, I wouldn’t have seen it as damaging.

While Dan Ellsberg would probably disagree, I don’t see any comparison between the Pentagon Papers and what Rosen did. The Pentagon Papers revealed serious government misconduct. Our government lied to the people and to Congress. Big lies that resulted in tens of thousands of lost lives. That was whistleblowing in the service of public interest. I’m wondering what government wrongdoing Dan sees as having been revealed by Rosen.

I don’t suggest we blindly accept every government claim of acting in the interest of national security while they abridge our civil rights. We need to look no further than the odious NSLs the Bush administration was so fond of to see the danger in that. But neither do I trust the motives of our present day media so much that I’m willing to unequivocally defend them. Surely Jon Karl and his anon source who provided altered emails to perpetrate a false GOP narrative would suggest our skepticism should go both ways. What good is a free media if they lie to us too, or jeopardize our intelligence assets, simply to drive traffic? As far I’m concerned neither secret surveillance nor irresponsible journalism should be defended. We deserve better from both sides.