A Note on the AP Scandal

It’s a good thing a US pres­i­dent has nev­er shut­tered news­pa­pers (Lin­coln), sus­pend­ed habeas cor­pus (Lin­coln again), pre­vent­ed their dis­tri­b­u­tion through the mail (Wil­son), arrest­ed tens of thou­sands of war dis­si­dents (Wil­son again) or impris­oned tens of thou­sands of Amer­i­cans because of their eth­nic­i­ty (Roo­sevelt), because oth­er­wise we might have had a prece­dent to work off of for deal­ing with Oba­ma’s mon­i­tor­ing of reporters who rou­tine­ly leak clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion to the pub­lic.

Of course, this is not to excuse Oba­ma’s mon­i­tor­ing of the AP’s elec­tron­ic com­mu­ni­ca­tions, or to explain away their close sur­veil­lance of Fox News cor­re­spon­dent James Rosen. The thing is, the gov­ern­ment has spied on itself and on the reporters who cov­er it, and leaked with bizarre, destruc­tive, glee­ful aban­don, since secrets were invent­ed.

That does­n’t make any of it okay. But while we charge up our out­rage motors to flank speed ahead, per­haps a tiny bit of per­spec­tive could inform pre­cise­ly how we choose to freak out and reign back in such excess­es. The coun­try — and free speech — has weath­ered far worse, and come out stronger. We’ll deal with this, too, in good time.

Joshua Foust used to be a foreign policy maven. Now he helps organizations communicate strategically and build audiences.

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