Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Good Leaks and Bad Leaks

The fall of the United States in Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index seems attributable mostly to the war on whistleblowers. "The whistleblower is the enemy," the report states, singling out the harsh treatment of Barrett Brown, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden

Politicians go out of their way to denounce whistleblowers and "leakers" whose revelations of classified data, they claim, have harmed national security. 

But it's always worth pointing out that the outrage is selective. 

Take the revelations this week, reported by the Associated Press (2/10/14),  that the United States is considering a drone attack to kill a US citizen purportedly working with Al-Qaeda. The report was based on information provided by at least four unnamed government officials. At the request of the government, the AP withheld the location of the American who is targeted,  but a subsequent New York Times report (2/10/14) asserted that the American is living in Pakistan. 

So we have what is certainly a sensitive government operation to kill a US citizen in a foreign country being splashed across the national media, based on what is surely considered extremely sensitive information provided by government officials. 

So where are Rep. Peter King (R.-N.Y.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R.-Mich.), politicians who have assailed the likes of Edward Snowden for revealing sensitive secrets? There is little condemnation of this story to be found, and no calls to round up the leakers. 

So why not? 

Perhaps because on the surface, this story would seem to be an official leak–one where the government divulges information in order to put its policies in a more flattering light. In these accounts, the White House is carefully weighing the pros and cons of a possible assassination, reconciling it with Barack Obama's speech about the new limits he aims to put on the US drone program. Or perhaps it's a leak from within intended to portray the White House as being too cautious. In either case, it doesn't seem to be generating the usual complaints about reckless leakers handing over sensitive intelligence to the media. 

As for critics like Rogers–he's speaking out on the issue, but it's not those who divulge secrets that he's mad at; it's the White House for not acting fast enough to strike. Assassinating US citizens involves too much "red tape," the Times story notes as his objection.


© 2021 Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)
Peter Hart

Peter Hart

Peter Hart is the senior field communications officer for Food & Water Watch. Previously at the media watchdog group FAIR, Hart is also the author of "The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly" (2003).

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone

Noting his refusal to cooperate beyond an informal April interview, the committee's chair said that "we are left with no choice."

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders Pushes Back Against AIPAC Super PAC With Endorsements of Tlaib and Levin

"Once again, these extremists are pouring millions of dollars into a congressional race to try to ensure the Democratic Party advances the agenda of powerful corporations and the billionaire class."

Brett Wilkins ·


Missouri Hospital System Resumes Providing Plan B After 'Shameful' Ban

The health network had stopped offering emergency contraception over fears of violating the state's abortion law—a "dangerous" move that critics warned could become a national trend.

Jessica Corbett ·


'An Act of Conquest': Native Americans Condemn SCOTUS Tribal Sovereignty Ruling

"Every few paragraphs of the majority opinion has another line that dismissively and casually cuts apart tribal independence that Native ancestors gave their lives for," observed one Indigenous law professor.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Lunacy': Democrats Risk Running Out of Time to Confirm Federal Judges

"Democrats aren't filling open seats right now in federal district courts because, for unfathomable reasons, they are letting red state senators block nominees," said one critic.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo