One of the most famous leaks of government information was
from a source called "deep
The story of the resulting Watergate Scandal
is documented in the Academy Award-winning film,
The Washington Post
reporters involved faced personal threats in
their effort to bring to light the illegal activities of President Richard
Lessons From Leaks
But many of these leaks are carefully planned.
A celebrity who has faded from the public's view may
plant a "juicy," embarrassing story, photo, or video just to get their name
before the public again. The story may first appear in a tabloid and later
be picked up by the mainstream press, or the video may be posted on a popular social
As one celebrity put it, "I don't care what they say as long as they
keep talking about me." This ploy often pays off at the box office or in terms
of record sales.
Even the super-secret CIA leaks information when it serves
many reporters know they are being used in reporting these leaks, at the
same time it's difficult to pass up a major story.
The problem arises when the information is illegal
to disclose or can even be interpreted as treason.
A recent story involved the "outing" of CIA agent,
The law defined her outing as "treason,"
punishable by a long imprisonment or even death.
But the leak was designed to
attack the reputation of Valerie Plame's husband who had been critical of the Bush
Administration's justification of the Iraq war.
After an impartial investigation, a noted person in the Republican Administration was found guilty of crimes related to the
outing and sentenced to 30 months in prison. But before he went to prison
granted him a Pardon.
Another example involved the secret Pentagon Papers.
This time a judge threw out the case during the trial when it was revealed that the government
clearly illegal means in it's attempt to gather evidence.
In the case of the Watergate
Scandal mentioned earlier, the identity of "deep throat" was kept secret
by the reporters involved for decades after President Nixon resigned the
Finally, the source of the leak publically revealed his own
However, such secrecy might not be possibly today because judges
can threaten reporters with jail time for not revealing their sources.
are several morals to all of this. First and foremost, to keep from being "used" --
especially illegally used --
reporters should be wary of information they receive, including the possible
motivations for "leaks."
Addendum: In 2011 a trove of
classified information was published on-line by WikiLeaks. According to
Wikipedia, Wikileaks is "an international self-described not-for-profit
organization that publishes submissions of private, secret, and
classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks, and
WikiLeaks has released documents that have
subsequently become front-page news.
Although serious charges have been brought as a result of
these leaks, as of this writing the case against Wikileaks case has not been
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