There are very few occasions on which I would, personally, permit a blogger to be ‘outed’ on my site. I might permit an anonymous blogger, whose identity was well known, or which the blogger had themselves disclosed, to be re-identified, for example. But basically, if somebody decides to keep their identity private, I think you should respect that.
I haven’t read the Nightjack case, so I can’t really comment on the basis on which it was decided – except to say that were there any discretion, I would be wholly unsurprised if Mr Justice Eady were to have exercised it in favour of The Times. However, it may well be that the learned judge had no choice but to muck up this officer’s career and deprive the public of this, and of future disclosures from other public servants. It is a pity. But if that is the law, then there is nothing to be done.
The Times, in turn, comes out of this looking pretty shabby. Now, look. I think Oliver is basically right. Certain public servants are constrained for a very good reason from publishing material relating to their jobs, even anonymously, and for good reason. Nightjack probably never did compromise secrecy relating to police operational matters or other information which should be kept confidential – but he might well have done so. So, much though it pains me to admit it, Eady’s judgement was a good on, on these policy grounds. There are some circumstances in which which employers ought to have a broad right to confidence, protected by law: and this is one of them.
But The Times…
Frankly, they’ve acted like the little boy who snitches on the fifth formers smoking tabs behind the bikesheds.
Should Times leaders be signed by their author? Naah. Danny and Oliver are right on this too. Moreover, calling for leaders to be signed is a bit like insisting that the cryptic crossword be printed with the answers filled in. I mean, I can spot a Kammesque phrase in a Times leader…well I sometimes think I can.