There’s a calm confidence to the way she relates the story that is striking, and very American. She repeats one of her favourite expressions: “The First Amendment is first for a reason. It makes me feel a little like I’m pontificating to cite the founders of this country, but it’s true they were so afraid of centralised power that they saw a free press as the critical bulwark against unbridled government – and that is our role.”
While the First Amendment has largely shielded the NYT from the British-style threat of prior restraint, a new challenge to robust journalism has emerged in the form of President Obama’s aggressive pursuit of official leakers. His administration has launched seven prosecutions under the Espionage Act, more than twice the number under all previous presidents combined.
“That’s put a chill on sources, particularly those involved in national security matters,” she says. “Very experienced investigative reporters in Washington have said to me the atmosphere for reporting has never been less hospitable, and that means that keeping the public informed has become more difficult. There are principled people inside the government who want to share certain information but are now too scared to talk because they fear prosecution.”