Trump and His Anonymous Nemeses
There has been a lot of talk about anonymous sourcing, as used by the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post in the Trump-Russia scandal.
The leaking of classified information is illegal and the leaking of confidential, administrative information is a fire-able offense. So sources have shared information with the press anonymously for years to avoid the consequences.
There are only two possible motives: un-virtuous and virtuous. So the question is, 'Are the leakers sharing this information with the press for nefarious or virtuous purposes?'
If the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to tilt an American election in their favor, regardless of a quid pro qua, and officials within the government are aware of that and suspect the administration of obstruction, then they are duty bound to see that justice is administered. The most effective means of fulfilling this obligation is to leak information to the press, thereby painting a public picture that cannot be swept under the rug. This is what it would require for me to believe the leakers and the press are acting virtuously. Essentially, they must have good reason to believe the integrity of our system of government is under attack and that they are the last resort.
The magnitude and severity of the information being reported has reached an impeachable level. If this information is falsified or intentionally deceitful, the leakers and the press would be co-conspirators in an unprecedented smear campaign against a duly elected President of the United States that could be fairly described as a coup d'état. If the information is pure fiction, or if the leakers and the press know it to be willfully misleading, their actions amount to a form of insurrection.
This begs the question, 'Is the information being leaked a fair representation of the facts before those doing the leaking?'
The public has no way, at this point, of answering that question with certainty. We can't directly observe the raw intelligence before investigators. Therefore, we cannot measure the accuracy of the information reported in the press. We can, however, infer the validity of the information reported in the press by observing the real world effects of those reports. If something is real, its effects will be observable. So what effects have these articles produced?
In an anonymously sourced article, Michael Flynn was accused of inappropriate and undisclosed communications with Russia, as well as working as a foreign agent for Russia and their newfound friend, Turkey. The result? He was fired. Jeff Sessions was accused of undisclosed communications with the Russian Ambassador and suspected spy, Sergei Kislyak, in another anonymously sourced article. The result? Days after being sworn in as Attorney General, he recused himself from the Russian investigation. The President himself was accused of obstruction of justice by anonymous sources. They claimed that FBI Director James Comey wrote in memos discovered after his firing that Trump tried to get Comey to shut down the Flynn investigation. The Result? The Republican Deputy Attorney General, appointed by Trump himself, named a special prosecutor--and it must be noted that naming a special prosecutor is not a decision to be made lightly and without facts to support the decision.
To my knowledge, none of these stories have been retracted. In fact, the only story that was widely criticized was the dossier published on Buzzfeed, which they acknowledged was unconfirmed information. But none of the anonymously sourced stories have been retracted or debunked.
These anonymously sourced articles are routinely criticized by Trump and his supporters, but the fact is, swirling around the cloud of uncertainty at the center, are observable effects. This does not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are true, but neither does typing in all caps on Facebook, "ALL ANONYMOUS SOURCES ARE LIARS!!! PERIOD."
In fact, judging by the effects produced, it would seem they are credible sources.