US Actually Has History of Being Weak on Leakers
And that's why it's cracking down so hard now
By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2013 1:51 PM CDT
Updated Jul 21, 2013 1:54 PM CDT
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

(Newser) – With Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning in the headlines, the investigation into former top General James Cartwright, and now a court ruling earlier this week that a New York Times reporter must testify against a source, the Obama administration has been sending a message: leaking government secrets will not go unpunished. But it wasn't always this way, reports the New York Times. When Dennis Blair was appointed director of national intelligence in 2009, he was shocked to discover that in the previous four years, 153 cases of leaking had been reported to the Justice Department—but not a single one had resulted in a conviction.

This discovery is what triggered the aggressive crackdown on leakers we're currently seeing playing out in the media, reports the Times. "My background is in the Navy, and it is good to hang an admiral once in a while as an example to the others," says Blair, who left in 2010. "We were hoping to get somebody and make people realize that there are consequences to this and it needed to stop." But critics say things have gotten out of hand, as evidenced by the government seizing the phone records of AP and Fox News reporters. "I think it has gotten away from them," says a former national security employee of several administrations. "If the president doesn’t fix this, I think his claim that he understands the importance of balancing the First Amendment against claims of national security will lack any credibility."