In praise of leaks

TO WATCH STEVEN SPIELBERG’S THE POST IS TO SEE HOW much has changed since the Supreme Court allowed publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Back then, the court’s liberal majority espoused the right to publish leaks, especially those in the public interest. Justice Hugo L. Black’s opinion insisted that “the press must be left free to publish news, whatever the source, without censorship, injunctions or prior restraints,” while Justice William O. Douglas said, “Secrecy in government is fundamentally antidemocratic.”

A lot has changed since the Nixon Administration. Journalism is no longer ascendant. A series of court cases has affirmed the government’s right to keep secrets while limiting when reporters can legally keep sources confidential. The public’s distrust of media has never been greater. And many news-media companies

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