As far as security leaks, it ain’t WikiLeaks, the Pentagon Papers or Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA surveillance on Americans. That stated, the cyberattack on Sony Pictures has produced a trove of embarrassing private emails regarding studio executives, and most of it has been great fodder for tabloids like the New York Post and websites like Gawker to go to town with.
No one has come forward as being the perpetrators, but speculation has centered around the North Korean government of Kim Jong-un, in retaliation for Sony’s “The Interview,” a comedy coming out on Christmas that features as its main plot the violent killing of the actual leader of North Korea. That’s because the North Korean government has labeled the provocative premise “an act of war” and vowed a “resolute and merciless response.”
So that is definitely a news story.
But the release of the private emails? According to Aaron Sorkin, that’s salacious, and the American media should be above it all.
The creator of HBO’s Newsroom and most famously of The West Wing, the talented screenwriter and playwright takes the media to task for its coverage of the Sony hacking in the op-ed pages of the New York Times this morning. While the most interesting and newsworthy publication of emails has been the embarrassing exchange between studio executives Scott Elliot and Amy Pascal making frankly racist remarks about President Obama, there really hasn’t been anything of huge significance to be published. But according to Sorkin, it’s been much more than that on some websites — specifically Social Security numbers, home addresses, computer passwords, bank account details, phone numbers and aliases used when high-profile actors check into hotels.
I understand that news outlets routinely use stolen information. That’s how we got the Pentagon Papers, to use an oft-used argument. But there is nothing in these documents remotely rising to the level of public interest of the information found in the Pentagon Papers.
Do the emails contain any information about Sony breaking the law? No. Misleading the public? No. Acting in direct harm to customers, the way the tobacco companies or Enron did? No. Is there even one sentence in one private email that was stolen that even hints at wrongdoing of any kind? Anything that can help, inform or protect anyone?
Sorkin certainly has a point to a certain extent. He ends up calling those media outlets that report some of this personal information as being “morally treasonous and spectacularly dishonorable.”
On Friday we had a chance to speak with Howard Simon, the head of the Florida ACLU.