I am not writing on behalf of any political candidate; rather I am writing on behalf of the American electorate as a member of that electorate. Additionally, I am writing as an expert in covert action operations and counterintelligence matters.
In my monograph “Freedom of the Press” you will remember I briefly addressed the topic of the media being allowed to use anonymous sources which they are then allowed to protect in almost every circumstance. I noted that such action isn’t allowed within the US intelligence community because that is the information upon which decisions affecting international geopolitical affairs is based. Thus, such information must be corroborated and the source scrutinized to assess if they have some reason to either lie outright or slant the information to achieve a particular outcome. Omission of this procedure causes intelligence failures; think Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
No such protection is afforded the US electorate and now we are plagued with stories of pernicious behavior based solely on anonymous sources. We are told that not one, but multiple anonymous sources heard or saw something; if one source is good then more than one must be better. Yet, none of those sources can be identified because they choose to remain anonymous and there is no recourse for the American electorate but to believe them, says the media. Just as with intelligence information, vetting these sources becomes exceedingly important because the behavior they describe is not the behavior one would want of an elected official. The elected official has no recourse because the Supreme Court some years ago restricted the ability of “public figures” to sue for defamation or libel. Thus, any media outlet is able to “make up” a story and attribute it to anonymous sources and neither the person upon whom aspersions have been cast nor the American electorate is allowed to challenge the information in other than a we said, they said manner.
THIS IS WRONG!! It isn’t the American way of doing things. In a court of law the accused is allowed to face those who accuse them of wrongdoing. The accused is allowed discovery of the facts surrounding the allegations and to present evidence that refutes those allegations with witnesses and forensic experts of their own. If the allegations are proven to be wrong the accused has recourse in the courts to recover damages and achieve a public recantation on the part of the original accusers.
I don’t care to which political party you subscribe or who you like or dislike, the use of anonymous sources must have some checks and balances imposed. If this is not done the American electorate is at the mercy of the media which has proven over the years not to be an unbiased actor. I won’t cover here the covert action argument wherein the media acts as a witting or unwitting agent of foreign actors inimical to US interests but such is becoming more and more the case. More on this in an upcoming blog.
Just the morning I saw a political ad for a candidate claiming something about another candidate I know to be completely false. I won’t prejudice you with describing it but it is aimed at a particularly vulnerable group of Americans and if left unchallenged will undoubtedly convince some to vote for the candidate whose campaign is making the claim.
I dislike involving the judicial branch in the matter, for we have become far too litigious in our society, but I see no other way at this junction. We must have some check on the use of anonymous sources by the media.
What do you think?