October 10, 2005

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR: Lots of reporters, and the editorial board of the New York Times, called for an investigation of the Plame leaks. Now Jack Shafer says they may not like the result:

National-security reporters—none of whom have clearances—receive classified information for a living. If the government used espionage law to investigate government leaks to the press, the effect would be an unofficial secrets act criminalizing thousands, if not tens of thousands, of annual conversations between sources and reporters.

If Fitzgerald takes this approach, it’s likely to generate quite a fuss, on a number of fronts.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus:

Lots of people in DC knew Valerie Plame worked at the CIA, after all. And it was a relevant detail if you were trying to come to a position on whether Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa, which was in turn relevant to the non-trivial public policy question of whether the country should go to war. Criminalizing public discussion of the CIA connection–unless the harm to U.S. security from Plame’s outing was immense, and the government was trying harder to keep her secret than it apparently was–is troublesome, no? … Before you say “Nah, lock Rove up,” imagine it was an anti-war State Department dissident who faced charges for pointing out that a Republican ex-ambassador who claimed to have evidence justifying a war was married to a not-so-covert CIA officer.

Indeed.

Also read Arianna Huffington and Tom Maguire.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Brian Leone writes:

I will be watching for what sort of proportionality we might see between the wrist slap that Sandy Berger received after stuffing highly classified documents in his pants and destroying some of them, as compared to what happens to various White House officials who discussed the identity of Ms. Plame who after all, as Kaus points out, was an open secret at least in Washington DC.

Of course, one must confess that the Plame affair has already vastly surpassed the Berger story in terms of numbers of articles written and demands for “protection” of our national security apparatus.
I wonder why that is?

I don’t.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire emails to point out that Dale Franks made Shafer’s point back in July over at the QandO blog:

The truly amusing thing about jumping for the Espionage Act of 1917 is that, ironically, allowing the use of the Espionage Act to punish leaks is literally the last thing the press wants. Indeed, it should be the last thing that the Left wants, too, since its use would be a tool for repression of government whistleblowers every bit as powerful as the Official Secrets Act is in Britain. It would literally mean the end of any notion of open government. . . .

The thing is, that using the Espionage Act in this way means that the Administration can simply classify anything they don’t want the public to know about, and if it gets out, then all the parties involved get to spend a decade behind bars.

So much for the First Amendment and a free press.

Advantage: Dale Franks!

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