Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Prosecute N.Y. Times and Leakers

The New York Times recently revealed another classified program aimed at Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. This program tracked international financial transactions. The Times does not challenge either the usefulness or the legality of this program. In fact, the first article notes that the program led to the capture of a major terrorist who plotted the Bali bombings. Yet, the paper irresponsibly publishes the program's existence and workings anyway.

The Times claims its publication is justified because the matter is of public interest. The identity of the leakers is also a matter of public interest, but the Times refuses to publish that information.

The Times has gone too far. The First Amendment does not shield the press from prosecution. The Justice Department should undertake an investigation into the journalists' acts in this case for the purpose of criminal prosecution. The investigation and prosecution should extend to the leakers.

Congress not long ago called in oil industry executives for a hearing on oil prices. The damage done by the press in revealing classified intelligence programs causes far more damage to the nation and should receive greater scrutiny. Congress should hold hearings into the acts and motives of journalists who reveal classified intelligence programs. Call the reporters and their editors and publishers to testify before Congress. Let the public see what is happening and why.

Congress should also pass a resolution expressing its outrage at the New York Times. The resolution should encourage government prosecution.

Journalists are not above the law. Nothing short of criminal prosecution of the journalists and their sources will deter the continues leaking of classified information. The Bush administration, often wrongly portrayed by the press as fiercely partisan, has treated its critics far more kindly than did the Clinton administration. The Bush administration needs to take strong action now in order to protect all other intelligence programs.

No one elected or appointed the New York Times to determine what classified information should be published. The Times people are a self-anointed, arrogant caste.

The major news media used to act responsibly. That time has passed. Only strong corrective action can return responsibility to the New York Times and others who routinely break laws and cause damage to our efforts in the War on Terror.

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