The Trump Administration is right to worry about leaks — and, boy, is it worried. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Armed Services committee that leaks are “devastating.” At a press briefing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said they were “undermining the ability of our government to protect this country.” Never has an American administration been so unable to stem the flow of unauthorized information and so helpless to protect confidences in government. When Sessions spoke of the “staggering number” of leaks, he was not exaggerating.
Unfortunately, Sessions, Coats and the rest of the Trump Administration are wrong about the solution. The answer is not to crack down on leakers, as the government now swears it will do. The answer is to crack down on Donald Trump.
Leaking makes governing harder. Politicians and their staffs cannot function unless they can interact candidly, and candor requires privacy. As Jason Grumet, the president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, likes to say: Imagine how your conversation with your spouse about your Christmas party guest list would sound if you had to conduct it on Facebook. Delicate negotiations in Congress or the White House need space for trial balloons, plausible deniability and strategic maneuvering — without being immediately shot to pieces by outside interest groups and the media. All of that is before considering the importance to national security of keeping state secrets, well, secret.