Journalistic Ethics and Illegally Acquired Documents
Ed Driscoll, Jonathan Adler and Glenn Reynolds take the New York Times and other mainstream outlets to task for their decision to not republish the stolen emails from climate scientists on the grounds that they were illegally obtained and written with the expectation of being kept private. After all, these outlets famously publish illegally obtained classified national security information at the drop of a hat.
In the case of the East Anglia listservs, the victims are private individuals. By contrast, the Pentagon Papers and various intelligence leaks published during the Bush era were owned by the United States Government and arguably kept secret partly to shield elected leaders from political fallout. Nor were the latter “stolen” in the same sense as the former. Rather, people authorized to receive the information shared it with reporters who are under no obligation to protect classified secrets.
What would be interesting is to see how the NYT and others handle illegally obtained documents from people with whom they don’t politically agree. Have they republished similarly stolen emails that were harmful to, say, tobacco companies or investment bankers?
If so, then were have a much better case for hypocrisy.