Recently, the Justice Department promised to be tougher on leaks and leakers who give out classified information from the White House. Jeffrey Smith, former general counsel for the CIA and James Risen from the New York Times talked about what is a problematic leak and how they happen.
Risen started by saying that he believes this new statement from the Justice Department was due to pressures from Trump, but that there is no real threat because no specifics were discussed. Previous administrations have also said they would be tougher on leakers. Smith added that leaks are a real problem which causes harm, but that it is important to distinguish between harmful leaks that uncover classified information and leaks which are political and uncover sensitive information. So basically, it is important to make a distinction between illegal and inconvenient leaks.
Risen goes on to add that information which is of public interest should be published, but agrees with Smith on the difference between these two types of leaks. He adds that there is a distinction between national security reporting and political reporting. Leaks happen when people are not happy with the government, so even sensitive information comes out. Even though many leaks that pertain to Trump, especially transcripts of his conversations with other world leaders, can cause harm in the future, it is important to remember, Risen adds, that the reason that there have been so many Trump leaks is that he “has gone out of his way to insult and ridicule virtually everyone that deals with him”. Risen also adds that those leaks might have come from the US, but they might have also come from those other governments who wanted to get the information out.
Political leaks are a complex topic and should be considered from various points of view. Of course they can be very useful, but sometimes can be extremely harmful, not just to a particular politician, but to the stability of a country. And that is why it is important to differentiate an illegal and an inconvenient leak.