- In May 2004, The Los Angeles Times reported Secret Grand Jury Information in the "Plame CIA leak case". They reported that reporters for Newsday were being asked for interviews
- In June 2006, both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times published a story based on a leak regarding the government's pressure on SWIFT — a Brussels-based clearinghouse that exchanges transactional information between international banks — to give up information on private bank transactions as part of U.S. global anti-terror efforts.The stories drew immediate fire from the White House and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y, then-chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who called the leak and subsequent publishing of the program's details treasonous.
......But concern over leaks has become so acute that a group of media and government representatives has held periodic off-the-record sessions during the past year to discuss ways to protect the most sensitive national-security secrets without abridging the public’s right to know. Senior officials from the Pentagon, Justice Department, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council and National Security Agency, along with journalists, have all participated in these unpublicized and unprecedented sessions [the ad hoc group was called Dialogue].....
.....Last October, the group helped to persuade the administration not to seek a tougher anti-leak law, which would have made the unauthorized disclosure of any classified information a crime, even if the information was harmless. Current law makes it difficult to prosecute leakers because the government must show an intent to aid a foreign power. ...
......One of the Dialogue’s most significant achievements has been to sensitize media and government representatives alike to the nuances of leaks. “National security leaders need to understand that some leaks are good for democracy and the country even though others are bad,” says Smith. “The press needs to understand more about the sensitivity of national security leaks. Everybody understands you don’t publish that the 82nd Airborne is planning to land somewhere, but not everyone understands that it’s a national security problem to report that Osama bin Laden’s cell phone calls have been intercepted.....”
....Doyle McManus, Washington bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times, says some things have changed since the terrorist attacks but that the press still largely applies the same standards about what to publish as it did before Sept. 11. “We’re just much more sensitive now about classified information, because it’s like the difference between peacetime and war,” he says.
By all accounts, the Dialogue meetings have made it easier for the media and the government to avoid knee-jerk reactions when leaks threaten national security. But all the goodwill fostered in the meetings will count for little as long as the Bush administration persists in shrouding its actions in secrecy, often without a legitimate national security reason. With the war on terrorism already chipping away at press freedom and other civil liberties, the need for vigilance in reporting on government and its penchant for secrecy has never been greater.