There’s a battle being waged in American courtrooms surrounding transparency and, to some people, it may seem inconsistent with key tenets of an important value for public relations professionals..
The Obama Administration has been driving increased enforcement of secrecy laws and policies, while pursuing sanctions against government officials who disclose government secrets and the reporters who use this information to report on issues that concern us all.
Most recently, the focus has been on forcing an author to disclose a source he used in a book about the Central Intelligence Agency. James Risen, who is a reporter for The New York Times, documented the clandestine nature of the federal government in “State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration.”
The battle over disclosure of Risen’s sources for his book, being led by the Justice Department for the past several years, has taken a turn in the author’s favor. Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that Risen could limit his testimony in the trial of a CIA official charged with providing classified information for the book.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that this ruling has not garnered attention beyond journalism and policy wonks inside the Beltway. After all, what Judge Brinkema did, in essence, was extend protections offered to journalists and their sources by roughly 80 percent of the states and the District of Columbia to the federal level. Interestingly enough, protections for journalists and their sources do not exist in matters involving the federal government.