Some leaks deserve a look
On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a major crackdown on federal government leaking is under way — and underscored his seriousness by standing alongside Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. Sessions said the Justice Department has “more than tripled” the number of leak investigations that the Obama administration had open. Obama’s administration, of course, was far more aggressive than all others in targeting leaks it saw as harming national security.
Sessions’ response to what he called a “staggering number of leaks” needs to be considered thoughtfully, not reflexively trashed or defended. A day earlier, The Washington Post had published transcripts of President Trump’s phone calls in January with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In May, The Intercept posted a transcript of an April call between Trump and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. Such leaks have no precedent, and the White House is right to find them alarming.
But given that Trump seems furious over all leaks, there are reasons to worry that he’ll urge Sessions to subpoena reporters over stories with leaks that are merely embarrassing to the White House. That would be an abuse of power — not just an attempt to find leakers but to intimidate journalists.