Sarah Chayes is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She was an NPR reporter from 1997-2001 and special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2010-2011.
“Are you kidding me?”
I was always stunned to hear reporters ask me — as they did half a dozen times when I worked at the Pentagon — to show them some classified document or other. They’d just pop the question blithely, unfazed, without an apparent thought for the implications. My incredulous retort would usually reap an only half-sheepish answer: “Well, I had to ask.”
Countless national security officials have had some version of this conversation – including the State Department security adviser that Fox News correspondent James Rosen allegedly plumbed for information on North Korea. Rosen wrote in an e-mail that he’d “love to see some internal State Department analyses.”
I’ve served on both sides of the line, as an NPR reporter and a Defense Department official, and it’s from that split perspective that I’ve been observing the furor over the seizure of journalists’ telephone and e-mail records in Justice Department investigations of national security leaks. Especially troubling to some reporters and pundits is a search warrant application suggesting that Rosen was “an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator” with his source. Commentators have decried the Justice Department for criminalizing journalism itself.