News is swirling these days around a complex mix of national security issues, leaks of classified information, and First Amendment protections for a free press amid the new world of digital journalism. Let’s use some terminology from a heavyweight boxing bout to track this “match” pitting the needs of national security against the public’s “right to know: “
Later “rounds” are harder to score.
And the bell will ring soon for even more action: Manning’s sentencing. More threatened disclosures by Snowden of secret programs. Congressional debate over the new shield law. And a larger, longer debate over national safety vs. individual freedom and privacy.
The fight analogy has its limits, but clearly we’re only in the early rounds of balancing legitimate national security concerns against over-classification and with the need of the public for accurate information on what its government is doing.
First Amendment concerns include not only threats to a free press’s ability to report the news, but also to the potential for a narrowly drawn shield law that may exclude new-media users like bloggers, or that provides for a kind of “licensing” of journalists as a special legal class that later could be withdrawn.
Even with all that’s come to light, we’re just getting though the early sparring in this ongoing Constitutional rumble.