Classified coronavirus meetings: What's the law?
In covering coronavirus, reporters may find officials being silenced and information kept secret under claims of national security.
That means journalists covering the spreading virus could encounter information gaps. One administration official cited by Reuters indicated the security clearances were designed to prevent leaks to the media. The test may come when reporters file Freedom of Information Act requests for any records related to those meetings.
“National security is open to interpretation, and courts tend to be pretty deferential when it comes to claims of classification by the executive branch,” said Adam Marshall, the Knight Litigation Attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
But the news media has successfully challenged some classification decisions.
“It’s not like there are no standards,” Marshall said. A 2009 executive order spells out appropriate categories for classification such as military planning, foreign government information, and intelligence activities.
“There is another provision that says information cannot be classified to, among other things, prevent embarrassment to the government,” Marshall said.