From the mainstream we hear the grousing of Washington Post National Political Editor Steven Ginsberg, Washington reporter John Solomon and the Associated Press’s Matt Apuzzo. From the partisan corners come the protests of the Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson, the New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza, Fox News Channel’s Brit Hume, the Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald and the chronically underemployed Keith Olbermann. All deplore, in vociferous terms, the excesses of a Department of Justice leak investigation that has criminalized the reporting of Fox News Channel’s James Rosen.
While I join this chorus of rage, I also wonder how much of Rosen’s trouble is of his own making. Did Rosen get caught and get his source in trouble because he practiced poor journalistic tradecraft?
First, the background: According to this morning’s Washington Post, Rosen became part of a federal leaks probe because secrets appeared in his reporting on North Korea. Ordinarily, the Department of Justice limits itself when investigations bump up against the press, but in this case the feds pushed hard, obtaining a search warrant to seize Rosen’s private emails, asserting that he was a possible “aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in the alleged leak. That is, they posited that Rosen might be a lawbreaker for requesting classified information from his source.
Rosen’s alleged source, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, was indicted in 2010 for disclosing national defense information. Although no charges have been filed against Rosen, journalists are logically demanding that the government explain how it can be a crime for a reporter to pursue government secrets when it is not (yet) a crime to publish them. If that’s the case, then hundreds, if not thousands, of current Washington reporters are criminals.