Navigating Law and Ethics at the Crossroads of Journalism and National Security

November 9 -
 10, 2017

Co-sponsored By:

Annenberg - Communications small
Center for advanced research global communication

The Conference

Journalism is under attack. The tensions between the responsibilities of journalists and the prerogatives of the government when dealing with issues of national security are exacerbated by a body politic fortified by partisan certitude, by technology designed to ferret out confidential sources, and by nation-states with unknown agendas.

The U.S. government suffers from significant and damaging disclosures of classified information, and the secrecy bureaucracy is struggling to adapt to a world where the locus of control over national security information is distributed, and where secrets themselves are an increasingly perishable commodity.   And whistleblowers find themselves in the most precarious state of all.  There is no guidebook for them; there are few means for them to convey their concerns responsibly without attracting a partisan following that can diminish or cast aspersions on their own motives and efforts.

This conference hopes to meaningfully advance the understanding of four broad challenges, using the conference as a point of departure to inject fresh thinking about these critical issues into the public sphere. 

The first issue involves the responsible reporting of national security crises:  while such events are inherently newsworthy, journalists must grapple with the troubling reality, born out by experience and by scholarship on how audiences consume information, that such reporting can fuel more terrorist attacks by stoking public fear and providing the terrorists with the kind of visibility they seek for their cause. Independent media coverage of their actions can have a reinforcing impact on terrorists’ violent narratives while glorifying the image of those in charge.

The second topic for discussion is how best to ensure the physical and legal safety of journalists, as well as the integrity of the constitutionally protected freedom of the press. Journalists can face, easily, and without consequence for the perpetrators, malevolent online harassment campaigns, hate-based attacks, or related physical threats or intimidation, due to their race, religion, or nationality, and such conduct can affect the coverage of national security matters, whether directly or indirectly. Because newsroom budgets have been pared down, reporters are often sent into disaster zones and denied areas without back-up. The best efforts to protect critical sources can now be bypassed using communications metadata to identify sources who may be reluctant to reveal their communications with the media.

Third:  the re-publishing of unauthorized disclosures of classified information by WikiLeaks or other such third-party, quasi-journalistic outlets, or independent platforms with cultures of disclosure that differ from the established media’s formal processes and well-considered habits. In such cases, the disclosed information usually remains classified, and intelligence agencies are unlikely to acknowledge whether the leaks are based on bona fide classified documents regardless of independent coverage. When dealing with these disclosures, how should news organizations that operate according to more conventional ethical codes disseminate such information?

The fourth challenge relates to the advent of “fake news” and its use as a weapon of asymmetric warfare.  It has become a national security threat. Our recent electoral experience with foreign disinformation raises the question of the responsibilities vested in journalists, private firms, and the government to protect democracy from foreign political subversion through the dissemination of “fake news” intended to affect political discourse or undermine national security. The field is professionally unprepared for this new reality.

This two-day, workshop-style conference consisting of experts from such diverse fields as the law, academia, the media, the national security establishment, and the whistleblowing community, will explore these complex legal and ethical problems through a series of moderated sessions. 

The objective is to foster a constructive, interdisciplinary dialogue among people who do not often talk with one another and to provide all participants with a more nuanced appreciation of the issues that lie at the intersection of journalism and national security. We also hope to provide solutions, even temporary ones, to the problems we’ve identified. 

This event is co-sponsored by the Annenberg School for Communication (ASC), the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication at ASC, the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and the law firm of Miller & Chevalier.



All private conference proceedings will be held in Room 500 of the Annenberg School for Communication (ASC) at 3620 Walnut Street on the University of Pennsylvania campus.

Public Keynote Address:

The public keynote portion of the conference will be held in Kirby Auditorium at the National Constitution Center (NCC) at 525 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106.


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8:30 – 9:30 am:   Registration and Continental BreakfastAnnenberg School For Communication3620 Walnut Street – Room 500Transportation to conference not provided
9:30 – 9:45 am:    Welcoming Remarks:  Claire Finkelstein, Algeron Biddle of Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania Law School and CERL Faculty Director Michael Delli Carpini, Walter H. Annenberg Dean and Professor of Communication, Annenberg School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania 
9:45 – 11:00 am:       Session 1 – The carnage of war, terrorist attacks, and classified information: What are a journalist’s ethical limits on reporting?   Beyond the coverage of acts of terror, journalists’ textual and photographic coverage of armed conflict and violent atrocities abroad (e.g., lines of refugees, grief-stricken mothers, images of American soldiers in body bags) can have a direct influence on public opinion and, thus, impact the counterterror efforts of governments. News outlets say they operate with the understanding that what they choose to cover and how they choose to do so shapes public discourse. To what extent, then, should journalists and their publishers pursue the dissemination of coverage related to violence and terror given the risk of dangerous blowback at home and abroad? How should this risk be balanced against the need for an informed society and educated public debate? What actual choices do editors have, given the constraints of audience, budget and attention?Moderator: Prof. William Burke-White, Director, Perry World House 
11:00 – 11:30 am:Break (refreshments served)
11:30 am – 12:45 pm:      Session 2 – Leaks of classified information and whistleblower protection: Do the laws strike the right balance for journalists?  A surplus of leaks of national security information in recent years has turned into a geyser in the new administration. Has the relationship between the executive branch changed enough to warrant a more adversarial approach?  Is it time for a federal shield law with teeth? What steps should journalists take before publication to balance equities? How can whistleblowers utilize formal and informal mechanisms to make their cases public?  Under what circumstances (if any) may whistleblowers violate their oaths?  Should the motive of the whistleblower —or the source of classified information — matter?  How can whistleblowers better protect themselves from criminal, civil, and governmental harassment? Moderator: Marc Ambinder, journalist-in-residence, CERL and ASC
12:45 – 2:15 pm:Lunch at The Inn at Penn
2:15 – 3:30 pm:   Session 3 – Court subpoenas and government surveillance: Have our laws left journalists too exposedMass surveillance, targeted surveillance, data retention, expanded and broad anti-terror measures and national security laws all compromise the ability of journalists to protect the confidentiality of their sources. Journalists have also been complicit: their cyber hygiene is often subpar. What are best practices in this area? Should reporters’ metadata be granted additional protection under the law?  Do laws and governmental practices intimidate and inhibit effective journalism?Moderator: Carrie Cordero
3:30 – 4:00 pm:End of Conference Programming – Day 1
 3:45 – 4:30 pm: Participants are transported to the National Constitution Center (NCC)
5:00 – 6:30 pm:Keynote Panel – Freedom of the Press and National Security in the Trump Era: Reconciling Competing Values in Democratic Governance – (moderated discussion) at the NCC
This Keynote Panel has been approved for 1.5 ethics CLE credits for Pennsylvania lawyers. CLE credit may be available in other jurisdictions as well. Attendees seeking CLE credit should bring separate payment in the amount of $60.00 ($30.00 public interest/non-profit attorneys) cash or check made payable toThe Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.Moderator: Jeffrey Rosen, President and CEO, National Constitution CenterKeynote participants:   Helle Dale, Laura Handman, James Risen, Charlie Savage
6:30 – 7:30 pm:Cocktails for conference participants at the NCC
7:30 – 9:00 pm:Dinner for conference participants at the NCC


8:30 – 9:30 am:  Registration and Continental BreakfastAnnenberg School For Communication3620 Walnut Street – Room 500Transportation to conference not provided
9:30 – 10:45 am:     Session 4 – Protecting society from fake news and weaponized information: European and American perspectives.  Does the government and private sector have an ethical duty to do more?  Prior restraints and media blackouts under European law are counterbalanced in the United States by an influential lobby that argues loudly that any legal constraints on technology will stunt its development, and by a strong (perhaps overbroad?) First Amendment tradition.  Do new times — and new weapons — call for new compromises? Moderator: Dean Michael Delli Carpini  
10:45 – 11:15 am:Break (refreshments served)
11:15 am – 12:30 pm:       Session 5 – Journalists at risk: online harassment, physical attacks and intimidation:  Journalists can face, easily, and without consequence for the perpetrators, malevolent online harassment campaigns, hate-based attacks, or related physical threats or intimidation, due to their race, religion, or nationality, and such conduct can affect the coverage of national security matters, whether directly or indirectly.  In conflict zones, as embedded journalists or while on their own, the risks are acute and the ethical challenges can be significant.  Is there a distinction between the way the government and companies should protect ordinary citizens and journalists?  Is embedded journalism inherently “tainted” by the circumstances under which it is produced?  Because newsroom budgets have been pared down, reporters are often sent into disaster zones and denied areas without adequate back-up; what legal and ethical responsibilities do corporations have to protect their employees?Moderator: Susan D. Moeller 
12:30 – 1:30 pm:Lunch at The Annenberg School For Communication – Plaza Lobby
1:30 – 2:45 pm:    Session 6 – National Security Journalism In the Age of Trump: Although change in journalism is constant, no single factor has so rapidly upended the decision rules that reporters and editors abide by than the man who now has the power of the executive branch at his command: President Donald Trump.  Should journalists treat him as simply another power to hold to account? As an existential threat to democracy?  Do aggressive efforts to restore political norms violate journalism’s ethical codes? How can journalists better persuade audiences about the importance of critical national security matters in this age of information anarchy? Moderator: Katherine Eban
2:45 – 3:00 pm:Concluding remarks by CERL Faculty Director Prof. Claire Finkelstein


Mr. Marc Ambinder

CERL journalist-in-residence, editor-at-large, The Week

Prof. Vivian Berger

Columbia Law School (Emeritus)

Mr. Douglas Birch

Freelance Journalist; former senior journalist, Center for Public Integrity; former Moscow bureau chief and diplomatic and military editor, Associated Press 

Ms. Hannah Bloch-Wehba

Clinical Lecturer in Law; Associate Research Scholar in Law; and Stanton First Amendment Fellow, Information Society Project, Yale Law School

Dean David Boardman

Dean of the Klein College of Media and Communication, Temple University

Mr. Bruce Brown

Executive Director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Prof. William W. Burke-White

Richard Perry Professor and Inaugural Director, Perry World House, and Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania

Carrie Cordero, Esq.

Counsel, ZwillGen PLLC

Mr. Bill Craven

Chairman, Federal Systems; CERL Board Member

Ms. Pamela Craven

Chief Administrative Officer, Avaya; Member, Penn Law Board of Overseers

Mr. John Daniszewski

Vice President and Editor at Large for Standards, Associated Press

Dean Michael Delli Carpini

Dean, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

Mr. Thomas A. Drake, PhD

Former Senior Executive, National Security Agency

Ms. Katherine Eban

Investigative Journalist; Contributor, Fortune; former staff writer, The New York Times and New York Observer

Arlene Fickler, Esq.

Partner, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP; CERL Board Member

Prof. Claire Finkelstein

Co-Founder and Faculty Director of CERL, Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania

Brian Fleming, Esq.

Member, Miller & Chevalier Chartered

Dr. Christopher Fuller

Lecturer, Marketing Officer, University of South Hampton

Prof. Kevin Govern

Professor of Law, Ave Maria School of Law; CERL Board Member

Prof. Hannah Gurman

Clinical Associate Professor, New York University

Mr. Paul Haaga

CERL Executive Board Chair; Board of Directors, National Public Radio; Chairman of the Board, Capital Research and Management Company (ret.)

Laura Handman, Esq.

Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

Mr. Robert Hennelly

Investigative Journalist

Mr. Burt Herman

Director of Innovation Projects, Lenfest Institute for Journalism

Ms. Maura Kennedy

Director of Business & Sponsorships at The American Law Journal

Prof. Seth Kreimer

Kenneth W. Gemmill Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Prof. Sam Lebovic

Director of the Ph.D. Program and Assistant Professor, George Mason University

Prof. Duncan MacIntosh

Professor and Department Chair, Department of Philosophy, Dalhousie University; CERL Board Member

Selina MacLaren

National Security Legal Fellow, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Kel McClanahan, Esq.

Executive Director, National Security Counselors

David McCraw, Esq.

Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, The New York Times 

Kyra McGrath

Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer, WHYY

Prof. Susan Moeller

Professor of Media and International Affairs and Director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland

Prof. Christopher Morris

Professor and Department Chair, Department of Philosophy, University of Maryland; CERL Board Member

Prof. Burt Neuborne

Norman Dorsen Professor of Civil Liberties and Founding Legal Director of the Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law

Col. Tim Nye

Retired Colonel of combined service in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Army and AGOGE founder

Barry Pollack

, Esq.Member and Chair, White Collar Defense Department, Miller & Chevalier Chartered

Mr. James Risen

Investigative Journalist, The Intercept and First Look Media

Prof. Connie Rosati

Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Arizona; CERL Board Member

Mr. Jeffrey Rosen

President and Chief Executive Officer, National Constitution Center

Mr. David Sadoff

CERL Executive Director

Mr. Charlie Savage

Washington Correspondent; The New York Times

Mr. Andrew Seaman

Senior Medical Journalist, Reuters; Ethics Committee Chairperson, Society of Professional Journalists 

Ms. Sandra Sheller

President and Director of the Sheller Family Foundation

Mr. John Sipher

Director, Customer Success at CrossLead, Inc.; Former Senior CIA Case Officer

Dr. Cassandra Steer

Executive Director, Women in International Security Canada Inc.

Mr. Shawn Turner

CNN National Security Affairs analyst, and former Director of Public Affairs, Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Dr. Stephen Xenakis

Brigadier General and Medical Corps officer (ret.), United States Army; CERL Board Member

Jules Zacher, Esq.

Attorney at Law; CERL  Board Member

Prof. Barbie Zelizer

Raymond Williams Professor of Communication, Director, Scholars Program in Culture and Communication, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

Background Readings

Panel 1: The carnage of war, terrorist attacks, and classified information: What are a journalist’s ethical limits on reporting? 

Paul Chadwick, Reporting on Terror Without Feeding It, THE GUARDIAN (June 9, 2017), 
Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Media Coverage of Acts of Terrorism: Troubling Episodes and Suggested Guidelines, 30 CANADIAN J. COMMUNICATION, no. 3, 2005,

Marc D. Felman, The Military/Media Clash and the New Principle of War: Media Spin, SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIRPOWER STUDIES (2012),

Megan Garber, The Malaysia Air Crash: Should We Publish Pictures of Bodies?, THE ATLANTIC (July 17, 2014), 

Brigette L. Nacos, Revisiting the Contagion Hypothesis: Terrorism, News Coverage, and Copycat Attacks, 3 PERSP. ON TERRORISM, no. 3, 2009,

Karen C. Sinai, Shock and Awe: Does the First Amendment Protect a Media Right of Access to Military Operations, 22 CARDOZO ARTS & ENT. L.J. 179, 218 (2004),

THE WAR YOU DON’T SEE (Dartmouth Films 2011),

Panel 2: Leaks of classified information and whistleblower protection: Do the laws strike the right balance for journalists?

Court case: Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 US 514 – 2001 

Criminal Prohibitions On the Publication of Classified Information  (CRS, 2013), at

Cory Bennett, Charges show peril for leakers, journalists alike, POLITICO, (June 6, 2017),

Yochai Benkler, A Free Irresponsible Press: Wikileaks and the Battle Over the Soul of the Networked Fourth Estate, 46 HARV. C.R.-C.L. L. REV. 311 (2011),

Suelette Dreyfus, Reeva Lederman, Simon K Milton & Jessie Schanzle, Human Sources: The Journalist and the Whistleblower in the Digital Era, in JOURNALISM RESEARCH AND INVESTIGATION IN A DIGITAL WORLD, 48 (A.J Brown, David Lewis, Richard Moberly & Wim Vandekerckhove ed., 2014),

Thomas Drake, “Why Are We Subverting The Constitution In The Name of Security,” Washington Post, August 25, 2011.

Hannah Gurman, Unfit to Print: The Press and the Credibility of the Contra-gate Whistleblowers. An original paper produced for the CERL conference.

Sam Lebovic, Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2016) (EXCERPTS)

Mary-Rose Papandrea, Leaker, Traitor, Whistleblower, Spy: National Security Leaks and the First Amendment, 94 B.U.L. REV. 449 (2014),

David E. Pozen, The Leak Leviathan: Why the Government Condemns and Condones Unlawful Disclosures of Information, in Harv. L. Rev. 127, 512 (2013),

Nathan Alexander Sales, Can Technology Prevent Leaks?, 8 J. NAT’L SECURITY L. & POL’Y 73 (2015),


Panel 3: Court subpoenas and government surveillance: Have our laws left journalists too exposed?

Criminal Prohibitions On Leaks and Other Disclosures of Classified Defense Information (CRS, 2017)

Matt Apuzzo, Times Reporter Will Not Be Called to Testify in Leak Case, N.Y TIMES, Jan 12, 2015, at A1,

Brad A. Greeneburg, The Federal Media Shield Folly, 91 WASH. U. L. REV. 437 (2013),

William E. Lee, A Revisionist View of Journalist’s Privilege: Justice Powell, Branzburg and the “Proper Balance”, 34 CARDOZO ARTS & ENT LJ 113 (2016),
William E. Lee, The Demise of the Federal Shield Law, 30 CARDOZO ARTS & ENT LJ 27 (2012),

Jack Lerner & Rom Bar-Nissim, Law Enforcement Investigations Involving Journalists, Chapter 10 in WHISTLEBLOWERS, LEAKS AND THE MEDIA: THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND NATIONAL SECURITY (2014),

Adam Liptak, A High Tech War on Leaks, N.Y. TIMES (Feb 11, 2012),

Jonathan Peters & Edson C. Tandoc, Jr., People Who Aren’t Really Reporters At All, Who Have No Professional Qualifications: Defining a Journalist and Deciding Who May Claim The Privileges, 2013 N.Y.U. J. LEGIS. & PUB. POL’Y QUORUM 34,

Charlie Savage & Leslie Kaufman, Phone Records of Journalists Seized by U.S., N.Y. TIMES (May 13, 2013),
Gabriel Schoenfeld, Time for a Shield Law?, NATIONAL AFFAIRS, Spring 2014, at 87,

Edward Wasserman, Safeguarding the News in the Era of Disruptive Sources, 32 J. MEDIA ETHICS, no.2, 2017, at 72,

UNESCO, Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age (April 27, 2017), 11-13, 87-94,

Panel 4: Protecting society from “fake news” and weaponized information: 

Michael Barthel, Amy Mitchell & Jesse Holcomb, Many Americans Believe Fake News Is Sowing Confusion, PEW RESEARCH CENTER, (Dec. 15 2016),

Naima Bouteldja, Fake news ‘symptomatic of crisis in journalism’, Aljazeera (Apr 12, 2017),

Helle Dale, “Russian Weaponization of Information.” Testimony presented to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, April 15, 2015.

Elizabeth Dwoskin, Caitlin Dewey & Craig Timberg, Why Facebook and Google are Struggling to Purge Fake News, WASH. POST, (Nov. 15 2016),

Anthony Faiola & Stephanie Kirchner, How do you stop fake news? In Germany, with a law, WASH. POST (Apr. 5, 2017),

Matthew Hindman, Journalism Ethics and Digital Audience Data, in REMAKING THE NEWS: ESSAYS ON THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM SCHOLARSHIP IN THE DIGITAL AGE 177 (Pablo J. Boczkowski & C.W. Anderson ed., 2017),

David O. Klein & Joshua R. Wueller, Fake News: A Legal Perspective, 20 J. INTERNET L., no. 10, 2017, at 1, 6-13,

Meredith A. Levine, Journalism Ethics and the Goldwater Rule in a “Post-Truth” Media World, 45 J. AM. ACAD. PSYCHIATRY & LAW, no. 2, June 2017, at 241,

Philip N. Meyer, A Tale of 2 Stories, A.B.A.J., June 2017, at 22,

Angela Phillips, Transparency and the New Ethics of Journalism, 4 JOURNALISM PRAC. 373 (2010), 

Jacob L. Nelson, Is ‘fake news’ a fake problem?, COLUM. JOURNALISM REV. (Jan. 11, 2017),

Scott Shane, The Fake Americans Russian Created To Influence the Election, New York Times, October 30, 2017, at

Amanda Taub, The Real Story About Fake News Is Partisanship, N.Y. TIMES, Jan. 11 2017, at A3,

Aidan White, Facebook and Matters of Fact in the Post-Truth Era, in ETHICS IN THE NEWS, 14 (Aidan White Ed., 2017),

Panel 5: Journalists at risk: online harassment, physical attacks and intimidation 

Committee To Protect Journalists: Covering News In A Changing and Dangerous World, Chapter 4: Armed Conflict:

Patrick Cockburn, “Embedded Journalists: A Distotred View of the War,” The Independent, 2010

Fahmy, S., & Johnson, T. (2007). Embedded Versus Unilateral Perspectives on Iraq War.Newspaper Research Journal, 28(3), 98,99-98,99. Retrieved March 25, 2015, from Versus Unilateral Perspectives on Iraq War&btnG=&as_sdt=1,39&as_sdtp=

Kylie Tuosto, The “Grunt Truth” of Embedded Journalism: The New Media/Military Relationship, 10 STAN J. INT’l L. 18-31 (2015)

Wojciech Adamczyk, Killed in Action: Female Investigative Reporters, War Correspondents and Local Journalists, and the Risk of Death or Becoming a Victim of Violence, 3 SRODKOWO EUROPEJSKIESTUDIA POLITYCZNE 77 (2014),

Stephen Jukes, Journalists at risk: looking beyond just physical safety (Sept. 2015) (unpublished working paper) (on file with Cardiff University School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies),

Joanne M. Lisosky & Jennifer Henrichsen, Don’t Shoot the Messenger: Prospects for Protecting Journalists in Conflict Situations, 2 MEDIA, WAR & CONFLICT 129 (2009),

Ben Saul, The International Protection of Journalists in Armed Conflict and Other Violent Situations, 14 AUSTRALIAN J. HUM. RTS 99 (2008),

Panel 6: National Security Journalism In the Age of Trump

Samantha Power, Why Foreign Propaganda Is More Dangerous Now, N.Y. TIMES, Sept. 19, 2017,

S.I. Strong, Alternative Facts and the Post-Truth Society: Meeting the Challenge, 165 U. PA. L. REV. 137 (2017),

Contact us

For any questions regarding the conference or registration, please contact: Jennifer Cohen at

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