Friday, June 16, 2017

"Leakers Mess With the Trump Investigation: Insiders need to shut up if they want the public to trust the results"

Via Instapundit: "A presidential obstruction of justice would constitute a serious challenge to both the rule of law and the proper functioning of democracy. But this column is not about that doleful thought. It’s about a different threat to democracy: the fact that the leak occurred at all. That fact, except among partisans, does not seem to me to be eliciting sufficient outrage."
In my earlier column, I argued that leakers are essentially liars. They want the benefit of being trusted with confidences without suffering the cost of keeping what they know to themselves. They sit in meetings and review documents and implicitly promise to keep the secrets, but their actual plan is to decide for themselves which juicy nugget to share with others. In philosophical terms, the leaker always does a moral wrong to the person who entrusted him with the secret.

But like most moral wrongs, the leak can be excused if the cause is sufficiently vital. Consider the corporate whistle-blower who brings to the authorities details of horrific misfeasance by his employer. I argued last time that one might plausibly excuse, for example, the leaks by former FBI Director James Comey, who explained his conduct as an effort to force the appointment of a special counsel to look into links between Russia and the Trump campaign. 1 Perhaps others in the rash of leakers in recent months had the same motive.

You can decide for yourself whether the motive is sufficient to justify the underlying lie. In any case, now that special counsel Robert Mueller III has begun his investigation, that rationale no longer exists. The individual who leaks what’s going on inside the investigation has no excuse. To share the special counsel’s secrets with a reporter is self-indulgence. To go to work the next day is to intensify the underlying wrong. . . .

If Mueller believes there is a case to be made we will find out soon enough. At the moment there is no way to tell whether he is thinking “It looks like there’s probably a crime” or “I don’t see much here, but I have to cover all the bases.” To whisper to a reporter that an investigation is under way only feeds the view among many on the right that the bureaucracy is partisan and unworthy of trust.

This being the season of La Résistance, I am obliged to add that I am by no stretch of the imagination a Trump supporter. I do, however, believe that maintaining the rule of law and the integrity of our governing institutions protects knight and knave alike. And if the answer is that Trump must be taken down by extra-institutional means, then I’m heading for the hills, because America is over.


edutcher said...

They don't care about the public, only hanging Trump.

what they don't get is this stuff is illegal and they can go up the river for it.

Leland said...

I always thought that Mark Felt ought to have suffered consequences for leaking his information. It's a principle thing. He was charged with investigating a crime. He got the information and decided (paraphrase), "I don't think a jury in a court of law would find sufficient evidence here, so how about we try this in a political court of public opinion." To the extent he may have been correct, he went beyond the law and broke several laws he vowed to uphold. Yet, he was never punished. Therefore, he is no hero. Rather he is a criminal that got away with stealing the public's trust. That's what these leakers are doing. And let's be sensible about this, punishment can be losing your job or having retirement/benefits cancelled for violating company policy, which for a civil servant is the law. People not given something as supposedly sacred as the public's trust face these types of punishments everyday.

Methadras said...

2When does it go beyond leaks to outright espionage?