When it comes to classified information, some leaks are more equal than others. If you are a whistleblower like Edward Snowden, who tells the press about illegal, immoral or embarrassing government actions, you will face jail time. But it’s often another story for US government officials leaking information for their own political benefit.
Two stories this week perfectly illustrate this hypocrisy and how, despite their unprecedented crackdown on sources and whistleblowers, the Obama administration – like every administration before it – loves to use leaks, if and when it suits them.
Consider a government leak that ran in the New York Times on Monday. The article was about 300 of Hillary Clinton’s now notorious State Department emails, which had been hidden away on her private server for years and were turned over to Congress as part of the never-ending Benghazi investigation. “Four senior government officials” described the content of her emails to New York Timesjournalists in minute detail “on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to jeopardize their access to secret information”.
Surely the Obama administration will promptly root out and prosecute those leakers, right? After all, the emails haven’t gone through a security review and the chances of them discussing classified information are extremely high. (Even if they don’t, the Espionage Act doesn’t require the information to be classified anyways, only that information leaked be “related to national defense”.) But those emails supposedly clear Clinton of any wrongdoing in the Benghazi affair, which likely makes the leak in the administration’s interest.
But that disclosure was nothing compared to what appeared in the Wall Street Journal a day later, in the wake of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s underhanded attempts to derail a nuclear deal with Iran. The Journal reported on Tuesday that not only did Israel spy on Americans negotiating with Iran, but they gave that information to Republicans in Congress, in an attempt to scuttle the deal.