Law professor Margaret Kwoka has been writing a lot on freedom of information. Read her new article called Leaking and Legitimacy. Here is the abstract:
Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden have captured the world’s attention in recent years by leaking massive quantities of secret government information. In each case, critics have made much of the fact that the leaks were in violation of government secrecy laws, while supporters have drawn parallels with whistleblower leaks, including the most famous and now widely acclaimed leak in United States history, Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers. This Article makes two important contributions to this debate. First, it defines recent leaks as a new type of leak — the deluge leak. Unlike whistleblower leaks, which expose a targeted government policy about which a knowledgeable leaker is concerned (in Ellsberg’s case, military involvement in Vietnam), deluge leaks are a broad response to excessive government secrecy insofar as they reveal a vast array of records about which the leaker knows relatively little. Second, departing from traditional criminal law and First Amendment analyses of these leaks, this Article examines deluge leaks through the lens of the social science literature on legitimacy. That literature establishes that a perceived lack of procedural justice is a key reason that people break the law. Currently, deficient procedural justice characterizes the suite of laws that govern the public’s right to access government information, including the Freedom of Information Act, the classification system, and whistleblower protections. This lack of legitimacy is an important motivation for deluge leaks, as the leakers’ own actions and words demonstrate. The Article concludes by arguing, counterintuitively, that improving transparency laws would better protect national security secrets.
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Interesting topic. In Snowden’s recent interview in Rolling Stone, he said his leak was actually a lot smaller than the government has been characterizing it. He said he picked certain sets of files he knew to be high shock value, but low risk to national security. That said, it was still on the order of 100,000 docs, so he definitely had “relatively” less knowledge of them.