This month’s Ethics Poll question is “It has now been confirmed that the man identified as ‘Deep Throat’ by Woodward and Bernstein during the Watergate scandal was a Deputy Director in the FBI, Mark Felt. Do you think it was wrong for a sworn law enforcement officer to leak details of an ongoing investigation to the media?”
You can vote here.
The issue here does not appear as straightforward as the pollsters would have you think. While the most obvious reaction seems to be that it is obviously wrong for a law enforcement officer to leak details of an ongoing investigation; the case in point has a sense of having been motivated by the greater good (as much as by any personal animosity between Felt and Nixon), at which point it seems to become somewhat nobler than your average cop leaking to the press. This would make it a worthy act. Hence the issue seems to become the question of whether one should obey duty, or aspire to nobility. But, it could be argued that Felt was actually, in leaking to the press, actually fulfilling his duty qua citizen. So I think I end up having to say that it is not wrong, in this situation, for a law enforcement officer to leak to the media.