Surveillance And Investigative Reporting: How Would Deep Throat Stay Anonymous Today?

By MARK PEARSON, Professor of Journalism and Social Media and member of the Institute for Law, Government and Policy.

We might support shield laws for journalists and bloggers but the actual practicalities of protecting confidential sources are a huge challenge for journalists in the modern era.

It’s of little value having a shield law to excuse a journalist revealing the identity of a whistleblower in court if litigants or government agencies have already been able to detect them using the surveillance regime that is ubiquitous in modern society.

It prompts the serious question: Could the Watergate investigation by the Washington Post three decades ago happen in the modern era? How long would Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s White House source ‘Deep Throat’ (senior FBI  official Mark Felt) remain anonymous today?

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