It’s pretty much an inviolable rule of journalism: Protect your sources.
Reporters have gone to jail to keep that covenant.
But Marcy Wheeler, who writes a well-regarded national security blog, not only revealed a source — she did so to the FBI, eventually becoming a witness in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of President Trump’s possible connections to Russia.
“On its face, I broke one of the cardinal rules of journalism, but what he was doing should cause a source to lose protection,” Wheeler told me in a lengthy phone interview.
“It’s not a decision I regret,” she added.
That she did so, as detailed in a post last week on her Empty Wheel blog, stunned those who have followed her work because she has so frequently criticized American intelligence agencies and their penchant for surveilling U.S. citizens.
“For her to go to the FBI, that made my jaw drop,” said Daniel Drezner, a Tufts University professor of international politics. (He doesn’t know her personally but has followed her work.)
“It’s like Glenn Greenwald calling up the CIA and saying I’ve discovered a mole,” Drezner said. (He was referring to the Pulitzer-winning, anti-surveillance, civil liberties lawyer who is co-founder of the Intercept, which focuses on national security news.)
Wheeler hasn’t named the source publicly, though his name may soon be known to all who are following the Mueller investigation.
But her dealings with him have brought her around to believing something she initially questioned: that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a very real thing, and that Trump associates played a part.
What exactly did the source do to deserve outing to the FBI, in her view? Wheeler is circumspect in describing that.
Her blog post centers on a text message she says she got from the source on Nov. 9, 2016 — about 14 hours after the polls closed — predicting that Michael Flynn, who would be Trump’s appointee for national security adviser, would be meeting with “Team Al-Assad” within 48 hours. Russia has been perhaps the Assad regime’s staunchest ally.
As she noted: “The substance of the text — that the Trump team started focusing on Syria right after the election — has been corroborated and tied to their discussions with Russia at least twice since then.” [Continue reading…]