While other bloggers — and conservative pundits — are calling for the prosecution o the New York Times for for publishing information about a classified program to track terrorist financing, I think it may be premature to indict anyone. I believe we should follow the precedent established with the latest CIA “leak” case and first launch an investigation into which government officials, entrusted with secrets essential to our national security, leaked this classified information.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez should do, as his predecessor John Ashcroft did, now nearly three years ago in the Plame matter and appoint a dedicated prosecutor with a reputation for diligence to investigate this matter. This prosecutor, like Patrick Fitzgerald, must be willing to jail reporters for contempt if they, like Judith Miller, refuse to reveal their sources. He (or she) should be empowered to determine (1) who was responsible for the leak and; (2) whether any laws were broken. (It seems clear that the answer to the second question will be in the affirmative.)
When the Attorney General announces the investigation, he should be sure to refer to the New York Times‘ zeal to investigate the Plame matter, using that paper’s arguments to help defend his decision. He should of course base that decision on existing statute as the responsibly individuals are likely to be tried in courts of law. But, in the court of public opinion, he must take advantage of the precedent the Times helped establish.
If the Times reporters know they could face jail time for failing to reveal their sources, it’s not only they who would think twice before publishing classified information. Career bureaucrats at the CIA and State Department who have animus against the Administration would be less inclined to blab to reporters with similar ideological inclinations (as well as those especially eager to win industry accolades), knowing that their indiscretion could cost them their jobs — and possibly subject them to prosecution.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
ADDENDUM: As I’ll be busy the next few days, I may not get as much chance to blog as I would like. Michael Barone has an excellent column today where he wonders why The New York Times hates us. Hugh Hewitt favors House and Senate pass resolutions “expressing outrage at the endangering of national security via the publication of sensitive national security information that obviously assists terrorists in eluding capture or killing.”
Hugh recommends Heather MacDonald’s excellent Weekly Standard article where she writes:
BY NOW IT’S UNDENIABLE: The New York Times is a national security threat. So drunk is it on its own power and so antagonistic to the Bush administration that it will expose every classified antiterror program it finds out about, no matter how legal the program, how carefully crafted to safeguard civil liberties, or how vital to protecting American lives.
took it upon themselves to decide what classified information the public (and our enemies) should know about. Bizarrely, he claims that the critical factors in his decision were whether the program was legal and had adequate safeguards — even though, as I document in a related post, it was indeed legal and had extensive safeguards in place. Thus, his excuses are an apparent cover for some other motivation, as yet unrevealed.