The Publication of National Security Information in the Digital Age

In one of her speeches on Internet freedom, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that “[t]he fact that WikiLeaks used the internet is not the reason we criticized its actions.” Although Clinton is correct that it is essential to separate the technology WikiLeaks uses from its actions, the digital age has raised new concerns about the unauthorized dissemination of sensitive national security information. New technology has made it much easier to leak and otherwise disseminate national security information. At the same time, leaks continue to play an essential role in checking governmental power and often make invaluable contributions to our public debate. WikiLeaks has prompted renewed debate concerning when the disclosure of national security information by nongovernmental actors should be protected, both as a policy matter and as a matter of constitutional law.

One dominant theme in the discussion of how to strike the balance between an informed public and the need to protect legitimate national security secrets is whether new media entities like WikiLeaks are part of“the press” and whether Julian Assange and his cohorts are engaging in“journalism.” As the gathering and distribution of news and information becomes more widely dispersed, and the act of informing the public more participatory and collaborative, however, determining who is engaging in journalism and what constitutes the press has become increasingly difficult. It is not possible to draw lines based on the medium of communication, the journalistic background of the publisher, the editing process, the size of the audience, or the methods used to obtain the information.

By Mary-Rose Papandrea

Mary-Rose Papandrea joined the BC Law faculty in 2004. Prior to coming to Boston College, Professor Papandrea was a visiting assistant professor at the University of Connecticut and Fordham. Professor Papandrea was born and raised in Connecticut. After graduating from Yale College and the University of Chicago Law School, Professor Papandrea clerked for Hon. John G. Koeltl of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Hon. Douglas H. Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Hon. David H. Souter of the U.S. Supreme Court. Following her clerkships, Professor Papandrea spent several years as a litigator at Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C., where she specialized in First Amendment and media defense litigation. Papandrea is Chair-elect of the AALS National Security Law Section and Chair of the AALS Mass Communication Law Section. She is a member of the Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and District of Columbia bars. Professor Papandrea’s primary research and teaching interests include civil procedure, constitutional law, media law, and national security and civil liberties.


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