This kind of harassment by the federal government is probably an extremely effective way to intimidate journalists and news organizations while really scare future potential whistleblowers. From Politico:
Federal investigators trying to find out who leaked information about a CIA attempt to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program obtained a New York Times reporter’s three private credit reports, examined his personal bank records and obtained information about his phone calls and travel, according to a new court filing.
The scope and intrusiveness of the government’s efforts to uncover reporter James Risen’s sources surfaced Thursday in the criminal case of James Sterling, a former CIA officer facing federal criminal charges for allegedly disclosing classified information. Sterling is accused of giving Risen details about what Risen describes as the CIA’s plan to give Iran faulty nuclear blueprints, hoping to temporarily thwart the regime’s ambitions to build an atomic bomb.
“We’ve argued that I was a victim of harassment by the government. This seems to bolster that,” Risen said. “Maybe I should ask them what my credit score is.”
I bet incidences like this will not only make many small journalists and lesser publications think twice about publishing leaked classified information, but it will do a really good job of scaring possible whistleblowers into thinking there is no safe way to expose perceived wrongdoing to through the press. Journalists don’t like getting every inch of their lives examined, and they will probably think twice about possibly dooming the future of a source and potential friend for the story.
This is why WikiLeaks has been so effective. It is meant to provide a truly anonymous way to expose what whistleblowers believe is classified wrongdoing, now that the federal government is working hard to make doing that almost impossible through more traditional channels like the New York Times without being caught. This is also why the federal government hates WikiLeaks.