T Nation

Prosecution of Journalists?


Man, it was such a good idea for the NYT et al to be agitating for leak prosecutions in the Plame non-problem. I mean, who could have foreseen that setting such a precedent would backfire on journalists given the understanding of First Amendment law? ( http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=805824&pageNo=0 See last sentence of initial post in that thread - same context, different leak) It sure is a good thing that journalists didn't let little things like systemic concerns or even self interest get in the way of pursuing a non-story they thought would embarrass the administration...


Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales raised the possibility yesterday that New York Times journalists could be prosecuted for publishing classified information based on the outcome of the criminal investigation underway into leaks to the Times of data about the National Security Agency's surveillance of terrorist-related calls between the United States and abroad.


Now we silence the media when they expose the crimes the government commits....we're on the fast track now buddy...


I could be mistaken, but it was always my understanding that plame was never undercover and that the supposed "leak" was never a crime.


I don't know that it was or wasn't a crime...I think this will be found out soon.

Its the greater significance of prosecuting not only those who leak things, but those that even report it. I just don't like the idea of prosecuting journalists...its like persecuting ideas.


[Edited because I can't read]

I'm not a fan either - though I will say that no one had considered the Espionage Act, circa 1918 or so, for these types of things until the wild-eyed Plame chasers from Kos and the DU suggested that whoever leaked Plame's name should be prosecuted under it...


It seems like we're a step away from bringing back the Sedition Act, and giving the government a free hand to act how they will without a peep.


Brewster Jennings & Associates

The right wingnuttery wants to follow Bush off the cliff.


So regime change starts at home after all.


Both of those things are wrong.


Go check the other thread on Plame -- there are already enough of them, and the facts haven't changes.


I don't care for prosecuting journalists -- I think they can and should prosecute a leaker, and that journalists don't have any special privilege to protect sources.

However, I don't think we're really treading close to the line of the Sedition Act here -- the government can't punish people simply for putting out information that makes it look bad, or for making arguments that those in charge are morons.


I find it pleasantly surprising that the Attorney General is looking at the possibility. The 1st Amendment does not give the media the freedom to report what ever they wish. There should be a responsibility there. The media should be held responsible for what they do and just have to retract a statement. I do not consider the prevention of secret information being made public a hit against the 1st Amendment. Only when you abuse the 1st Amendment do you run the risk of losing it. IMO

Me Solomon Grundy


You are still wrong.


I don't like the idea of carte blanche prosecuting jurnalists either. However, while a free press is vital to a democratic republic such as ours, the press is not above the law either.

I think that if the press is violating any national security laws, then it should prosecuted like any other corporation or individual would in the same circumstance.


Law professor Jonathan Adler and lawyer Michael Berry have a good article in The National Review that lays out the reasoning of what I said above -- it's not a good idea to prosecute journalists in leak cases for publishing classified info (if they refuse to reveal sources and get cited for contempt of court, that's a different argument):



[i]Publishing classified information is not the same thing as stealing state secrets or spying for the enemy. There is a distinction between clamping down on government employees who leak sensitive national security information and targeting the reporters who publish those leaks. It is one thing to question the wisdom or propriety of publishing sensitive national-security information, or to allege media bias. But it is quite another to call for the criminal prosecution of journalists for reporting on matters of public concern, even when those matters implicate national security. Not every embarrassing or unfortunate disclosure is a criminal act.

Sensitive information should be treated sensitively, even by journalists. Conservatives, however, should be wary of novel applications of vaguely worded criminal statutes, particularly in the face of clear constitutional text. If the Justice department were to go ahead and prosecute journalists for reporting on such information, it would unduly hamper press freedom and set a dangerous precedent that conservatives would come to regret.[/i]