Publishing National Security Secrets: The Case for “Benign Indeterminacy”

Unpopular wars inevitably lead to sharp conflicts between Presidents and the press over the control of secret information. National security secrets find their way into print because government officials assigned to carry out questionable policies leak secret documents to reporters. The government responds to publication with threats of civil legal action and criminal prosecution.

The Vietnam War produced the Pentagon Papers case, in which the government unsuccessfully sought to stop publication of a classified history of the war. More recently, national security cases have led to jail for some reporters, threats of jail for others, and warnings of criminal prosecution for still others.1 These cases, taken together, threaten to criminalize newsgathering of national security secrets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *