Rick Karr on Government Secrecy
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of PBS Bill Moyers Journal
Posted: March 3rd, 2008
You may not know James Risen's name, but you probably know his work: He's one of the New York Times reporters who broke the story of the Bush administration listening in to phone calls and reading email, without search warrants. A federal prosecutor has asked a grand jury to look into a book that Risen wrote. It details not only warrantless wiretapping but also how, when it came to covert operations in the Middle East, the Administration made "mistake piled on mistake", caused an "espionage disaster" and was "operating in the blind" when it came to Iran. Risen was subpoenaed to tell a grand jury who he talked to about Iran in other words, to reveal his anonymous sources. So far, the reporter has refused to talk. If Risen is forced to testify, the public will be the real loser. Here's why: Anonymous sources have a lot to lose if their identities are revealed because a lot of them are powerful or prominent. So, if the Federal government can force a reporter like Risen to reveal their identities, those sources will clam up. For muckrakers and whistleblowers, it's getting harder and harder to expose corruption and wrongdoing. Take the case of former FBI agent Sibel Edmonds: She blew the whistle on massive incompetence at the Bureau sloppy translations, missed messages from terror suspects. She even alleged that insiders were leaking secrets to foreign agents. She lost her job for it. Just after Congress got interested in her story and a bipartisan group of Senators said they found her claims credible enough to warrant an investigation the administration retroactively classified everything that she knew, pretty much shutting down any chance of an investigation. U.S. journalists have found it nearly impossible to look into her claims.