Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Karen Miller

Subject Categories

American Studies | Mass Communication | Sociology | Sociology of Culture


Leaks, Media, Disclosures, Secrecy, Communication, Information


This paper examines the cases of government employees who are responsible for the disclosure of confidential information to the press, known as media leakers. I claim that the government and media leaker engage in a series of patterned responses, which leads to both the disclosure of information, and prosecution of the leaker. More specifically, I demonstrate how the government’s executive branch manages a game of leaks, in which ‘illegitimate’ leakers are separated from elite officials who also leak, but are often spared from prosecution because they are considered ‘legitimate’ players of the game. Although the boundaries surrounding ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ leakers may appear as fixed and stable, they are actually constantly in flux due to momentary social pressures. I demonstrate that regardless of the ‘illegitimate’ leaker’s claims to be a whistleblower or serve the public’s interests within the boundaries of the law, the executive and in turn the judiciary will respond with aggressive and retaliatory measures, particularly if the content of the leak embarrasses the executive or threatens the American war project.