August 6, 2017

WELL, YES: Thanks, Obama! Trump Is Expanding Your Effort to Imprison Leakers!

Sessions is continuing a war that began before he took office. Nothing he said today is all that different from how the federal government under President Barack Obama treated unauthorized leaks other than the expansion of the effort.

Obama’s Department of Justice aggressively pursued leaks, invoked the Espionage Act to prosecute people, snooped on the press, and even threatened journalists with prison to try to make them give up sources. The department eventually changed its policies after the revelation that it had been surveilling journalists to try to track down leakers. But those policies can be changed back, and that may be what Sessions intends to do.

Obama famously campaigned on transparency but his administration provided anything but that. Federal agencies took years to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests. Such a paucity of information practically requires reporters to depend on leaks in order to get information.

There’s a difference between leaking and whistleblowing, though. Leaks aren’t always bad — sometimes they’re good — but when they’re done out of a bare desire to do political harm, as the recent Trump transcript leaks seem to have been, then there’s no excuse.