Frank and free speech, RIP

This week the Washington Post committed the greatest national security breach in the history of our country, and hardly anyone is talking about it.  The Post printed transcripts of private telephone conversations between our president and the leaders of Mexico and Australia.  The press is focused on the embarrassment the transcripts may have caused our president.

Has the press gone mad? Do they not understand the consequences of what the Post has done? Are they so involved in their petty gossip that they don't realize the Post has just endangered the ability of our President to communicate frankly and in private with anyone?

And it's not just our president.  It's every leader in the world, and top officials, and business and military leaders, and anyone else whose private words, made public, might further some political interest with access to intelligence and the press.  The Washington Post and its sources have forever cast a pall upon frank and free speech around the world.

As I write this, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and director of national security Dan Coates have just detailed renewed efforts to stop leaks and to find and prosecute leakers.  They promised to increase assets for their already existing Leak Investigation Task Force, FBI Director Chris Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein have been assigned to personally oversee these efforts, and Sessions has a message for would-be leakers: "Don't do it."  To me, their comments suggest a lack of focus and urgency – business as usual, but more so.

Only mentioned in passing, this MOAL – Mother of All Leaks – is more damaging than the others by several orders of magnitude.  It demands extraordinary and immediate action.  The task force must trace every step in the process from the president's spoken word to the Post's printed word, identify all the people involved, and vigorously prosecute them.

I include reporters and editors of the Washington Post.  The freedom of the press does not extend to inhibiting the frank and free speech of others.  The First Amendment is not a snake that eats its own tail.

This is urgent.  Not until we know exactly how this leak and its publication occurred, and by whom, and for what reasons, and not until we observe the prosecutions and convictions of the leakers and publishers, can we – the peoples and governments of the world – rest somewhat assured that our frank and free speech is private again.

This week the Washington Post committed the greatest national security breach in the history of our country, and hardly anyone is talking about it.  The Post printed transcripts of private telephone conversations between our president and the leaders of Mexico and Australia.  The press is focused on the embarrassment the transcripts may have caused our president.

Has the press gone mad? Do they not understand the consequences of what the Post has done? Are they so involved in their petty gossip that they don't realize the Post has just endangered the ability of our President to communicate frankly and in private with anyone?

And it's not just our president.  It's every leader in the world, and top officials, and business and military leaders, and anyone else whose private words, made public, might further some political interest with access to intelligence and the press.  The Washington Post and its sources have forever cast a pall upon frank and free speech around the world.

As I write this, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and director of national security Dan Coates have just detailed renewed efforts to stop leaks and to find and prosecute leakers.  They promised to increase assets for their already existing Leak Investigation Task Force, FBI Director Chris Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein have been assigned to personally oversee these efforts, and Sessions has a message for would-be leakers: "Don't do it."  To me, their comments suggest a lack of focus and urgency – business as usual, but more so.

Only mentioned in passing, this MOAL – Mother of All Leaks – is more damaging than the others by several orders of magnitude.  It demands extraordinary and immediate action.  The task force must trace every step in the process from the president's spoken word to the Post's printed word, identify all the people involved, and vigorously prosecute them.

I include reporters and editors of the Washington Post.  The freedom of the press does not extend to inhibiting the frank and free speech of others.  The First Amendment is not a snake that eats its own tail.

This is urgent.  Not until we know exactly how this leak and its publication occurred, and by whom, and for what reasons, and not until we observe the prosecutions and convictions of the leakers and publishers, can we – the peoples and governments of the world – rest somewhat assured that our frank and free speech is private again.

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