Best practices for national-security reporting

With the recent surveillance leaks in mind, we want to call attention to a collection of “best practices” for journalists reporting on national-security issues which New York Times reporter Adam Clymer laid out as part of a larger report a couple years after the attacks of 9/11; this is a condensed version of Clymer’s summary (from SGI director Rick Blum’s recent Roll Call op-ed):

  • Carefully consider the consequences of publishing.
  • Take government concerns seriously.
  • Check sources.
  • Tell readers when making agreements with governments regarding what stays in (or is left out of) a story.

Now, 2003 is a decade – and more than a few national-security journalism cycles – in the past – but Clymer’s advice remains relevant and valuable, even if a measure of its success is how unobtrusive it is. Ironically, the best practices may be so transparent that they can’t be seen.

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SGI op-ed in RollCall.com outlines way forward on leaks: Engagement

In Guest Commentary on RollCall.com this morning, we give concrete ways the government should better engage with journalists on stories based on unauthorized disclosures (“leaks”).  We argue that when reporters bring stories to agencies on national security and foreign affairs where they may be some sensitive information in the story, the reporters take seriously their obligation to mitigate against possible harms from any disclosures. The government, too, has an obligation to engage the press when these stories are brought to officials to avoid possible harms from such stories.

The entire commentary is available here.

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