Jack Shafer

The top spook’s stupid gag order

By Jack Shafer
April 21, 2014

The nation’s top spy has prohibited all of his spies from talking with reporters about “intelligence-related information” unless officially authorized to speak. Intelligence Community Directive 119, signed by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper last month and made public Monday in a report by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, threatens to reduce the flow of information from the national security establishment to the press — and hence the public.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1998 lesson on the price of secrets

By Jack Shafer
December 27, 2013

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2013 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review and is reprinted with permission.

Edward Snowden and the selective targeting of leaks

By Jack Shafer
June 11, 2013

Edward Snowden’s expansive disclosures to the Guardian and the Washington Post about various National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs have only two corollaries in contemporary history—the classified cache Bradley Manning allegedly released to WikiLeaks a few years ago and Daniel Ellsberg’s dissemination of the voluminous Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other newspapers in 1971.

What war on the press?

By Jack Shafer
May 24, 2013

President Barack Obama has declared war on the press, say writers at Slate, the Daily Beast, Reason, the Washington Post (Jennifer Rubin, Dana Milbank and Leonard Downie Jr.), Commentary, National Journal (Ron Fournier), the New York Times editorial page, CBS News, Fox News (Roger Ailes) and even Techdirt. Scores of other scribes and commentators have filed similar dispatches about this or that federal prosecution “chilling” the press and pulping the First Amendment. Downie, who could open an aquatics center with the leaks his reporters collected during his 17 years as executive editor of the Washington Post, calls the “war on leaks … the most militant I have seen since the Nixon administration.”

The battle over Benghazi

By Jack Shafer
November 2, 2012

When Washington bureaucracies rumble, they often avoid directly savaging one another by using the press as proxies. By leaking selectively to news outlets they believe will give them the most sympathetic hearing, they hope to shape the news by making it. The strategy doesn’t always work. Sock puppetry revolts good reporters and some bad ones, too, because they know carrying tainted water for a source today may stain their reputations tomorrow.

Why leaks are good for you

By Jack Shafer
June 27, 2012

Every leak of classified information benefits somebody. With maybe one exception, I’d say that the recent sluice of leaks that has opened up and been reported in the press benefits you.

Anatomy of a leak, 1966-67

By Jack Shafer
May 8, 2012

Every leaker of information has an agenda. The leaker can be an honest whistleblower, a spinner, a junior Machiavelli, a nut job, a misinformed flunky or a combination of several of the above. But with every trickle of privileged information, the leaker invites other interested parties to leak their side of the story, setting institutions against institutions and publications against publications.