From the Reliable Sources newsletter thingie last night (formatting theirs, not mine):
From the Sullivan column:
“It’s pretty much an inviolable rule of journalism: Protect your sources. Reporters have gone to jail to keep that covenant. But Marcy Wheeler, who writes a well-regarded national security blog, not only revealed a source — she did so to the FBI, eventually becoming a witness in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of President Trump’s possible connections to Russia. ‘On its face, I broke one of the cardinal rules of journalism, but what he was doing should cause a source to lose protection,’ Wheeler told me in a lengthy phone interview.
“‘It’s not a decision I regret,’ she added. … Her blog post centers on a text message she says she got from the source on Nov. 9, 2016 — about 14 hours after the polls closed — predicting that Michael Flynn, who would be Trump’s appointee for national security adviser, would be meeting with ‘Team Al-Assad’ within 48 hours. Russia has been perhaps the Assad regime’s staunchest ally.”
And then from Wheeler’s post:
“I never in my life imagined I would share information with the FBI, especially not on someone I had a journalistic relationship with. I did so for many reasons.
“Some, but not all, of the reasons are:
- I believed he was doing serious harm to innocent people
- I believed (others agreed) that reporting the story at that time would risk doing far more harm than good
- I had concrete evidence he was lying to me and others, including but not limited to other journalists
- I had reason to believe he was testing ways to tamper with my website
- I believed that if the FBI otherwise came to understand what kind of information I had, their likely investigative steps would pose a risk to the privacy of my readers
“To protect the investigation, I will not disclose this person’s true identity or the identity and/or role I believe he played in the attack. Nor will I disclose when I went to the FBI. I did so on my own, without subpoena; I did that in an effort to protect people who have spoken to me in confidence and other journalists…
“…My risk isn’t going to go away — indeed, going public like this will surely exacerbate it. That’s to be expected, given the players involved.
“But I’m a public figure. If something happens to me — if someone releases stolen information about me or knocks me off tomorrow — everyone will now know why and who likely did it. That affords me a small bit of protection. There are undoubtedly numerous other witnesses who have taken similar risks to share information with the government who aren’t public figures. The Republicans’ ceaseless effort to find out more details about people who’ve shared information with the government puts those people in serious jeopardy.
“I’m speaking out because they can’t — and shouldn’t have to.”
I have really mixed feelings on all this, because I do think that protecting sources is one of the HUGE differences between the US media and the rest of the world, but if what Wheeler is saying is true (and I have no way to judge that), this sounds like lives are at stake. Being a blogger, Wheeler isn’t exactly beholden to nor protected by the Freedom of the Press.
I don’t know what I would do in similar circumstances, but I suspect I would follow Wheeler’s example because I would not be able to live with myself if I could prevent the loss of innocent lives.
I can hardly wait for the unveiling.