Aug. 11, 2017

TITLE: Damning the river

When it comes to leaks to the media, there are basically two types: ones that disseminate critical information that compromises national security (military strategy, troop information, agents in the field, etc.) and non-critical 'palace intrigue' type leaks (insider gossip, rumors, embarrassing flubs and faux pas). The Trump administration is on the warpath to conflate the two, likely because the torrent of gossipy leaks has proven so devastating to the image the President wishes to project.

It's quite a reversal because, you'll remember, leaks were 100% a-okay when WikiLeaks was dumping information daily about the Dems during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump's own reversal on this has been startlingly hypocritical. THEN: "I love WikiLeaks... WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove," he crowed at countless rallies. NOW: "It's not even about Russia or China or whoever it is that's doing the hacking," Trump said at a July 2016 press conference (something he doesn't seem to hold anymore). "It was about the things that were said in those emails. They were terrible things... "

So, during the campaign it didn't matter WHO leaked, it only mattered what was IN the leaks. But now, six months later, it's exactly the other way around.

The only exception to the 'every leak is a bad leak' philosophy seems to be ones originated by and designed to benefit the administration itself. The alt-right media (Breitbart, Drudge, InfoWars, Hannity, etc.) love quoting tidbits from 'unnamed sources within the administration' that suit them. Don't hold your breath waiting for the administration to go after THOSE miscreants.

The truth is, in the information age, leaks can come from anyone, at anytime, from anywhere in the world. And soon from Mars.

For example, Trump's little hour-plus long tête-à-tête with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit wasn't leaked by American media, it was leaked by the OTHER LEADERS present at the dinner.

And still don't know if the leaks of transcripts of Trump's stunningly artless phone conversations with the president of Mexico and prime minister of Australia didn't originate from within those nations themselves -- and if they weren't they easily might have. What we DO know is that Trump misrepresented the content and tone of those conversations for his own personal aggrandizement.

And short timer Michael Flynn would never have been fired from his National Security Adviser post had it not been for a leak run by the Washington Post detailing his ties with Russia.

So, how does an administration stop leaks? Considering that leaks during the entire Obama administration were extremely low, particularly when compared to the frequency and intensity of the ones we've seen in just six months of the Trump administration, perhaps doing less mind-numbingly stupid stuff would be a good place to start.

And less lying.

The most anyone can say about Trump's lying is that it's... um, actually, I have no idea what anyone can say in his defense -- sounds like the topic of a future column. The President of the United States is an inveterate liar, creating a dire national emergency that prompts people who know the ACTUAL truth to feel an obligation to communicate it to their fellow citizens.

Serious leaks of information deemed to compromise national security will continue to be dealt with, as was the prosecution of Chelsea Manning for leaking sensitive government documents during the Obama administration. But 'palace intrigue' leaks are NOT illegal and never will be in any government short of a totalitarian one. They're merely embarrassing; less so the less dumb.

In a free society, one person's leaker is another person's whistleblower. Or patriot. Let's continue to take leaks one at a time, rather than attempt to dam the entire river. You don't want to be the one holding the trowel when the dam breaks.

Thanks for reading. See you next time.

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Multiple award-winner author Charles Carr has written thousands of columns and articles for The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Orange County Register, The Reader, The Californian, Parent Magazine, and many others. Thousands have attended Carr's original theater productions at prominent venues throughout So Cal. He is also a noted film director and co-founder of Art Animates Life Films. Contact him at charlescarr.com