Is 1942 the new 1984?

Newly released documents, analyzed in today’s Wall Street Journal, show the U.S. government struggling to deal with leaks as early as World War II. In 1942, Chicago Tribune reporter Stanley Johnston reported that the U.S. navy was informed of japanese battle plans, all but confirming the U.S. had cracked the Japanese navy’s code. The department of justice unsuccessfully attempted to prosecute Johnston for disclosing a military secret. Similarly to the current case against Bradley Manning, on trial for leaking classified government documents, the prosecutors weren’t able to prove Johnston intended to aid the enemy.

The  Johnston case shows that freedom of press is on much firmer footing today than in 1942. Back then, prosecutors were willing to not just go after those who leaked information, but also after a journalist who reported on them. Today, Glenn Greenwald – the Guardian journalist publishing Edward Snowden’s revelations –  is apparently still safe from prosecution. But there are enough pundits and politicians who want Greenwald put on trial as a traitor. Hopefully the unsuccessful case against Johnston serves as a discouragement to those who believe you can have a functioning democracy without a free press.

Here’s a link to the article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323420604578651951028990338.html?mod=WSJ_WSJ_US_News_5

 

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