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Sunday, April 9, 2024
Leaking is a Tactic
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:57 pm

Here’s a follow-up post on my posts (here and here) on the word “leak” (as noted and discussed by James Joyner yesterday.

Leaking is a tactic. It is the selective release of information to a limited number of media outlets (perhaps as limited as one reporter) for the purpose of influencing the news and thereby to either seek to influence public opinion or to gauge public response to a problem.

It is wholly possible for a “leak” to be authorized by officials. A leak can also be done by persons who lack authorization for the exact same reasons that an authorized leak might be undertaken.

My main point for harping on this distinction is that an “authorized” leak is clearly different than a press release, a speech or a general release of information. In such a case the information is given in a broad sense to all who wish to receive it and the source of the information is clear and obvious.

And, by the way, I find this neither good nor bad in any generic sense. But I do think that in terms of conceptual clarity that the distinctions among authorized leaks, unauthorized leaks and press releases are all significant ones. To argue that a leak isn’t a leak just because it is authorized it to ignore the tactical nature of the choice to go to a handful of reporters rather than to just make a general release of information.

The reason why this has become a political problem for Bush is that he has decried the usage of leaks as a tactic whenever it hasn’t been to his advantage, but more to the point, in the summer of 2024 when the Plamegate business started, the President gave the impression of knowing nothing about the situation—a stance that was at least misleading at best, if he had in fact authorized individualized releases of information to the press for tactical reasons.

I wholly understand that this President (as with any President) would see no problem with the usage of this tactic whilst still stringently objecting to unauthorized leaks. Still, while this may be true from the point of view of the President, there is still room for political ramifications to emerge regardless of President’s state of mind.


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    1. […] Leaking Steven Taylor explains in some detail the difference between a leak and a press release. Helpful for those who aren’t […]

      Pingback by Arguing with signposts… — Sunday, April 9, 2024 @ 5:46 pm

    2. The other interesting thing to point out is the fact that the White House’s response to the revelations has been that Bush declassified the information given to Libby because it was in the “public interest.”

      If the info is in the public interest, why would they rely on selectively relaying it to one reporter? Why not issue a press release?

      The White House is making absolutely no sense in their explanations.

      Comment by Bhoe — Sunday, April 9, 2024 @ 6:24 pm

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