On the Times

Bumped from comments:

Conger, your rights end where another person’s begin. Your right to publish whatever you like is not unlimited even now, see also copyright laws, libel and slander laws, etc. When you publish a story that endangers lives, haven’t you crossed that line? Do people have a reasonable expectation that you as a publisher will not enable the enemy to attack them?

I like the idea of your Benedict Arnold law even less than I liked the character in 24 you referred to. This doesn’t require the passage of any new laws, except maybe a congressional censure. This is a simple matter for a good liability lawsuit. Next terrorist attack, the Times could be liable or partly liable if it can be shown that the information they printed was used by the enemy. Also, the leakers of this information could be held liable by the same measure. Plus, whatever consequences there are already in place for violating non-disclosure agreements etc.

Now, I don’t work for the government. I work for a software company. If I was giving away source code (and I wouldn’t) or inside financial information (I wouldn’t) then our Legal dept would absolutely own me in about 24 business hours. I’m pretty sure it’s in my Non-Disclosure Agreement that they can sell me into slavery in Egypt for any violation. So, if you work at the Pentagon and you’re leaking to the NYT, I gotta believe there’s some heavy duty legal repercussions for leaking this kind of thing.

The question isn’t about their rights, the question is was it responsible to do so? I don’t think anyone ought to be clapped in irons over this. I do think the people that decided to leak the story and to run the story should spend their lives looking over their legal shoulders.


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