At the Lawfare blog, a communication from an unidentified “senior national security official” in the Obama administration on the leak investigation against Fox News’ James Rosen. It’s striking that a senior official would decide to communicate these views via a blog – though Lawfare (whose editor-in-chief is the former Washington Post journalist turned Brookings scholar Benjamin Wittes) has evolved into something closer to an edited magazine than a blog, with a readership that includes the key national security community in DC. The unnamed official’s comments raise issues touched on by some of the analyses here; I leave it to others here at VC more expert than I in these areas to say what it means. An excerpt:
[T]he Administration has been roundly [criticized] for suggesting that a reporter who knowingly solicits classified information might be committing a crime. At the risk of violating the old adage about not picking a fight with someone who buys printer’s ink by the barrel, I want to take this on.
The Department of Justice did not claim that the Fox News reporter in the [Stephen Jin-Woo] Kim case committed a crime merely by publishing classified information. According to the Government’s filing in the case, the reporter in question actively asked people with access to classified information to break the law by providing him classified information he could publish. He used false names and “dead drop” email accounts to do so. In other words, he wasn’t someone to whom a whistleblower came to disclose information; he was actively asking people to violate the law, and enabling them to do so.