Should Leaks Be Illegal? We Asked, You Answered

Should Leaks Be Illegal? We Asked, You Answered

Why you should care

Edward Snowden, Reality Leigh Winner and others like them — should we protect or prosecute?

OZY and WGBH are bringing you a terrific new TV show, Third Rail With OZY — launching on PBS this fall! Every Wednesday, we’re debating hot topics in the lead-up. Last week we asked, “Should leaks within the government always be illegal?” You answered. Here are some reader responses and perspectives, condensed and edited for clarity. Check back tomorrow for our next question.

Chris Kingsley

The admonition, “If you see something, say something” should be taken to heart, especially by those in government service. The greatest threat to the survival of this democracy is from those who, by inaction as well as their actions, are doing a profound disservice to the republic and its citizens. There has never been a greater need for courageous whistle-blowers to right the ship of state before those who have callously commandeered her run her aground.

Joe Adams

The teleology of a leak is important. Those leaks that only serve to benefit an individual or for profit should be condemned (insider trading is apparently legal for Congress), while those who protect the public from unscrupulous officials should not only be protected but rewarded, like the False Claims Act does for corrupt payments.

Anything can be ‘classified.’ If it exposes illegal and immoral activity by the people we elect, then leak away.

Dave Harless

John Woodville

Try leaking information in most countries and poof, you’re dead. Come to think of it, the Clintons have been doing that for decades. When the president has a private conversation on a secure phone line and the next day the transcript is in all the newspapers, that is treason.

Perry Charles Lunsford

If it’s classified, leakers should be jailed. If it is not, they should be fired. When you work for a government agency, you must be a team player. If you see wrongdoing, there are appropriate places to “whistle-blow,” and it is not publicly.

Mike Substelny

In general, I despise the concept of institutional secrets. I like it when we protect individual privacy but not the dark secrets of governments or corporations. If governments have secrets, then voters cannot make good decisions. In a like manner, if corporations have secrets, then customers and stockholders cannot make good decisions. I realize that some secrets are necessary. Their necessity doesn’t keep me from disliking them.

Amy S.

I do not think government leaks should ALWAYS be illegal. A leak, to me, is defined as a “drip.” An information “drip” would be a small bit of information leaked verbally by an insider, perhaps as a comment from an unnamed source. For example, someone saying President Trump said the White House is a “dump.” Or, someone saying, “I heard we are going to attack North Korea.” (Even though this could have a HUGE impact.) This type of information should not be illegal. A “leak” of a printed or electronic document or other such information is bigger than a drip and should be treated as illegal. This would be something like information posted on WikiLeaks or information downloaded by Reality Leigh Winner.

Dave Harless

If the information will harm the security of the nation and/or cost lives, then yes, illegal. Anything can be “classified.” If it exposes illegal and immoral activity by the people we elect, then leak away. Please, if you have a conscience, DO IT!

Jim Dorcey

Let’s take a recent case, that woman arrested last month or so. She leaked documents from an ongoing investigation. Definitely prison time is warranted.

Pat McNamara

There are confidentiality agreements involved and procedures to report irregularities. You may or may not be sued, prosecuted, fined or imprisoned! Depending on said information’s sensitivity, lives could be involved depending on whether the information is kept secret or exposed! Follow procedures!

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