Only a few days ago, several news agencies reported that Mary O. McCarthy, a senior officer in the CIA, had been dismissed from her job for leaking classified information to the media. The information damaged intelligence relationships across the globe, and according to Peter J. Gross, the current CIA director, “the damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission.” Specifically, Ms. McCarthy gave information to the press concerning secret CIA-run prisons located abroad.
There is no doubt that Ms. McCarthy violated CIA policy when she leaked classified information. It is also clear that Ms. McCarthy should be punished to the fullest extent of the law for her actions. However, Ms. McCarthy is not the only person at fault. The Washington Post and specifically reporter Dana Priest were both responsible for collecting and publishing this information. While the freedom of the press is a fundamental and necessary right in our country, ethically I don’t think I could betray or harm my country just for personal gain. By publishing this information, the Washington Post and Ms. Priest have effectively undermined our country’s intelligence agency and ultimately the defenses of our nation. It’s my opinion that the media, like the Washington Post, has a right to publish classified information, and must act as a balance against the government. However, publishing information that damages our national security hurts everyone and simply benefits the enemies of the United States
However, even more stunningly but not more surprisingly, Columbia University has decided to honor the Washington Post and Ms. Priest by awarding them a Pulitzer Prize. Apparently to get a Pulitzer Prize these days you either have to betray your country by revealing national security secrets go after Republic Corruption and Republican Lobbyists. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much opposed to corruption, either by Republicans or Democrats. More specifically, I appreciate the fact that Republican Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham was exposed for taking bribes. (Its too bad he took those bribes; the guy was a fighter ace and made some cool appearances on the History Channel.) However, I don’t think this was a case of remarkable journalism; I mean, the guy had a gigantic house, multiple luxury cars, and was living in rent free yacht. I would think that to earn an award in journalism, one would have to do work that distinguishes itself by benefitting society in a meaningful way. Likewise, I don’t think that revealing the Jack Abromoff scandal is a remarkable piece of journalism either. I certainly agree that Abromoff is guilty and should pay for his crimes, but it is no surprise that lobbyists exist in our capitol. Furthermore, the lobbyists give to both parties, although I guess the exploits of Democratic lobbyists were under-reported.
Instead of awarding journalists for exposing Mr. Cunningham or Mr. Abromoff, the press should focus on the perfectly legal act carried out by representatives of both parties at all levels of government who spend trillions of dollars on pork-barrel projects. However, real journalists don’t seem concerned with something so trivial, and instead it took the work of internet bloggers, to bring it to national attention. (For up-to-date news go to porkbusters.org.) Of course, the Pulitzer Prize could never go to a group of bloggers.
The media plays an important role in our country and it is capable of producing both good and evil. I agree full-heartedly that government censorship is antithetical to democracy. However, it’s up to journalists and news corporations to act ethically and use responsibility. Likewise, rewarding journalism that only hurts America and undermines national defense is ridiculous.
Brian Eller is a mechanical engineering sophomore and a Mustang Daily columnist.