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Leaks: A Different Story in Great Britain

We have complained for years about the fact that leakers in the CIA, the State Department and elsewhere in the federal bureaucracy have carried on a war against the Bush administration since the President’s first term, a war they largely have won. Politically-motivated Democrats in the bureaucracies leak to politically-motivated Democrats at newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post, who run “exposes” of the Bush administration based, frequently, on selective use of classified documents. Instead of being prosecuted, the leakers have never been identified and the reporters have won awards.

That infuriating situation is a striking contrast with what is happening in Great Britain, where one of the most prominent members of the Conservative opposition, shadow immigration minister Damian Green, has been arrested for receiving leaked information from a government official:

The arrest follows a series of leaks to the Conservatives about Government policy, including a sensitive memorandum from the Home Office’s most senior official on crime figures earlier this month. … Mr Green is understood to have been arrested at lunchtime today and is still in custody. He has not been charged.

Green has been arrested after obtaining leaked Whitehall documents. Police searched his family home and his office in the House of Commons. He was arrested for “aiding and abetting misconduct in public office”.

That’s a charge that would fit some American reporters very neatly. In England as here, the leaker styles himself a “whistleblower,” but that characterization hasn’t helped him:

An alleged “whistleblower”, thought to be a male Home Office official was arrested 10 days ago.

It gives me a certain satisfaction to see the words “whistleblower” and “arrested” in the same sentence. Still, I don’t think that all leakers should be punished with a prison term, just those who illegally leak classified information the publication of which will be helpful to our enemies.

It’s interesting to consider whether the British precedent could be a harbinger of things to come in this country. Once we have a Democratic administration in place, leaking will diminish considerably, since a large majority of federal bureaucrats are Democrats. But what if a Republican official should leak information damaging to the Obama administration? Will he be a courageous whistleblower, and will newspapers (or more likely, conservative web sites) that publish the information be awarded Pulitzers? Or will the laws relating to confidentiality suddenly be enforced, with the support of the liberal press, once the shoe is on the other foot?

It will be interesting to find out.

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