Podcast: Dean Mary-Rose Papandrea on “Whistleblowers and National Security”

Today’s podcast is by my friend, Mary-Rose Papandrea, the Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of North Carolina School of Law.

This podcast is part of our series of presentations from our recently-completed 25th Anniversary National Security Law conference, where a wide variety of current national security topics were addressed.

Dean Papandrea

Mary-Rose talks about whistleblowers, but also about journalists and the press more generally when it comes to dealing with national security matters.  She readily says that “there really are no easy answers in this area,” and that the issues are “only becoming more difficult with technology and the changes that we’re seeing in the way that the government operates.”

The goal of her presentation, she tells us, is “to give you things to think about so that you appreciate why this is so difficult because we need to think about these difficulties as we try to navigate a solution.”

Among other things, she explores the motivations of leakers:

“And the motivations, as I suggested, do vary. It could be you have a leaker who wants to show the world how important, has some sort of megalomania issues, right? So of course, there could be some of those kinds of problems. But it often can be someone who’s trying to make an impact on a policy or a plan. It could be a trial balloon. Or in the case of someone we might think of more of as a whistleblower, someone who’s trying to report some perceived abuse, illegality, waste, fraud, or abuse”

She acknowledges that beginning with the Obama administration, there has been an increase in leak prosecutions.  She believes that much of this increase may be related to contemporary technologies.  She observes:

“The technology, as I mentioned at my outset, certainly is playing a massive role here. If you think about the technology now, information or data is easily saved, easily duplicated, and easily transmitted. This is very different from the Daniel Ellsberg having to copy every single page of the Pentagon Papers on a photocopy and then– did you see the movie? The Post? Depicted him on an airplane with the documents taking up a seat next to him on the airplane.”

“So it’s very different now, right? You could get a flash drive in a second or you can transmit them over the internet. We also have encryption technology that makes it hard to track the transmission of the information and also makes it easier for people to share information anonymously. So that’s another reason for the uptick [in prosecutions].”

Of courses, Dean Papandrea covers much more in her presentation.  She discusses a lot of tough questions: what checks-and-balances, if any, are appropriate viz-a-viz the press and the government?  What is the role of the judiciary?  Who is a “journalists”?  What about anonymous sources?

All these issues and more are addressed in the podcast you can listen (or watch) found hereTake listen!!! 

(If you are interested in issues regarding whistleblowers, you may also enjoy this blogpost from last October: “A question for America: should a CIA official ever be obliged to face the public?”)

Remember what we like to say on Lawfire®: gather the facts, examine the law, evaluate the arguments – and then decide for yourself!

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