Saturday, December 31, 2005

Justice Department Probes Leaks

The US Justice Department has opened a probe into the various leaks surrounding the release of classified surveillance programs ordered in the wake of 9/11. The latest leaks involve information regarding warrantless surveillance by the NSA as reported in the New York Times. (AlJazeera: US opens inquiry into spying leak).

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said, "The leaking of classified information is a serious issue. The fact is that al-Qaeda's playbook is not printed on page one, and when America's is, it has serious ramifications." According to Duffy, the investigation was launched independently by the Justice Department and was not ordered by the White House.

Clearly there is someone in the intelligence community that is leaking classified information to the news media, and specifically to the New York Times. Now, just as the receipt of stolen goods is illegal, so too should be the receipt of illegal information. The New York Times must not be allowed to hide behind the "Freedom of the Press" clause on this one. The rights of a free press do not extend to compromising national security. The person leaking this information is guilty of espionage against the United States and in this case the New York Times is equally guilty and must be held accountable.

Top level leaks have become commonplace of late. Investigations are still ongoing over the release of CIA Operative Valerie Plame's name. The Justice Department recently launched a probe to determine who leaked the existence of top secret CIA prisons in Europe to the Washington Post. Now the Justice Department must deal with the release of a secret NSA program to the New York Times. Wherever these leaks originate, they must be stopped and those responsible for them must be brought to justice.

It is equally important that the reporters and editors of newspapers receiving this information and choosing to print it be held just as accountable as those that leaked the information in the first place. The First Amendment does not give the press the right to publish classified information. It does not give the press the right to obtain and publish any information that endangers national security. With freedom comes responsibility, and the news media has demonstrated precious little of the latter.

There are several steps the administration should take immediately. First, the Washington Post and New York Times must be removed from the press pool that has access to government briefings. If they can't report the news responsibly, then they have no right to obtain the information first hand. Second, the reporters and editors of both papers should be subpoenaed and ordered to reveal the source of the information. Should they choose to withhold that information then both should be imprisoned until they do. There can be no tolerance at all for the release of classified information and clearly the reporters and editors know where the information originated. Lock them up until they talk.

The penalty for those releasing this information must be especially harsh. An example must be made of those that commit what amounts to an act of treason. Yes, I do consider this treason under Article III, Section III of the Constitution: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court." In this case, the release of classified information regarding anti-terror surveillance constitutes providing aid and comfort to the enemy as defined in the Constitution.

The three Justice Department investigations currently underway will be watched with interest. The apprehension of those responsible is an important part of our ongoing war on terror. Likewise, the punishment of those in the news media guilty of conspiring against our national security interests will also be required. I look forward to seeing all of them brought to justice.


No comments :