For the third time in a year, the Washington Post has promoted the prosecution of Washington Post sources.
Last September, the Post controversially published “No Pardon for Edward Snowden” (9/16/16), an editorial calling for prosecution of the whistleblower who helped the paper win a Pulitzer Prize in 2014.
In the past weeks, two Post columnists have joined the Post editorial board in calling for Post sources to be jailed—this time in regard to the Post’s major scoop (5/16/17) about President Donald Trump leaking classified intelligence to Russian diplomats.
First up was former head of the CIA, pro-torture pundit and frequent Trump critic Mike Morell, whose op-ed piece (5/17/17) took aim at the Post’s sources for this story—anonymous “current and former US officials”—arguing that “the leakers did commit a crime, and they should be held accountable.”
Post columnist, pro-torture theologian and former Bush official Marc Thiessen (5/22/17) joined him the following week in “Leakers Who Revealed Israel as Intelligence Source Did Far More Damage Than Trump”:
The decision of these anonymous leakers to share code-word intelligence with the media is a crime that did far more damage than Trump’s apparently inadvertent disclosures to the Russians.
The Post may argue the editorial side is independent of the news side, and that the opinions expressed there—including those of the editorialists, whose writings are tagged as “The Post‘s View”—have no bearing on its newsgathering practices. But this assumes that the Post draws its opinion writers out of a hat rather than deliberately deciding to give a platform to a specific range of ideological perspectives.
With the exception of one Katrina vanden Heuvel column (9/20/16) from last September that advocated a pardon for Snowden, the Post hasn’t featured any opinion pieces countering these calls for the prosecution of the paper’s sources. Post-election, the Post has branded itself the vanguard against Trump—and indeed, its reporting side has often lived up to this billing. But the editorial side of the paper has repeatedly thrown its reporters’ sources under the bus.
Why should a source leak to the Post when its editorial board toes the national security state line to such a rigorous degree? If “democracy dies in darkness”—as the Post’s new tagline claims—what happens to democracy when any attempt at exposing the inner workings of the government leads to multiple felony counts?
But the calls for prison time for whistleblowers are part of a broader problem with the Washington Post opinion section—the prevalence of pro-government, pro-national security state voices over all others.
In one 24-hour period this month, for example, the Post ran op-eds by the former head of CIA, the former head of NSA, a former vice president and an ex-CIA agent. While the Post will sometimes allow outside voices, its opinion section is disproportionately and overwhelmingly populated by current and former boosters of US national security orthodoxy. The same goes for their editorial board, which, in addition to calling for the prosecution of Washington Post sources, runs interference for US allies and is a lockstep advocate for all of its wars.
Whistleblowers are already under attack on multiple fronts—from lengthy jail sentences to “cruel and inhuman” pre-trial punishment to the draconian Espionage Act. The question the Post should ask itself is: In addition to all of this, do whistleblowers really need the paper that publishes their revelations using its opinion pages to call for their imprisonment?