Congress Has Lost All Perspective When It Considers Prosecuting Journalists As Spies
from the who's-the-real-enemy-of-the-state? dept
And, in fact, as the EFF is warning, some in Congress are now turning their sights on reporters at the NY Times for daring to publish newsworthy material, dug up through traditional reporting means. In other words, the gradual expansion of the definitions here is putting reporters at risk. Already we expanded the definition of espionage to cover whistleblowers... and now they're trying to expand it to the press who report on the information leaked by whistleblowers.
It's hard not to be offended by the disdain for the Constitution displayed by these politicians. Even if no one actually goes through with a prosecution against a journalist, the chilling effects have already made their mark. Reporters are likely to think twice now about publishing that big scoop, exposing questionable government behavior, because those within the government seem to think that actually revealing troubling facts about the government is akin to being a spy.
At a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on July 11th, some members of Congress made it clear they also want New York Times journalists charged under the Espionage Act for their recent stories on President Obama’s ‘Kill List’ and secret US cyberattacks against Iran. During the hearing, House Republicans “pressed legal experts Wednesday on whether it was possible to prosecute reporters for publishing classified information,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
In addition, the Washingtonian’s Shane Harris reported a month ago that a “senior” Justice Department official “made it clear that reporters who talked to sources about classified information were putting themselves at risk of prosecution.”
Leaks big and small have been happening for decades—even centuries—and the most recent are comparable to several others. No journalist has ever been prosecuted under the Espionage Act and it has generally been accepted, even by Congress's own research arm, that the publication of government secrets by the press is protected speech under the First Amendment. Yet the government is actively investigating WikiLeaks and now threatening others for just that.