The Paper of Treason: Leave them alone and go after the leakers?

posted at 10:08 am on June 29, 2006 by Bryan

So a consensus forms around the notion that the New York Times should not be prosecuted, that its editors and reporters who willfully delivered sensitive wartime data to our enemies and thereby in all likelihood destroyed a vital anti-terror tool, should skate. At the most, the reporters should be squeezed until they cough up the identity of those who leaked the information to them. The focus, says the consensus, should be on prosecuting the leakers. Boycott the Times by all means, so the thinking goes, but stay off that slippery slope of prosecuting members of the press who may have committed actual crimes.

Letting reporters get away with crimes done in the name of their profession is a slippery slope of its own, but few seem to have thought of that. Michelle notes a case of Times reporters aiding terrorists even more directly than this SWIFT story, for instance. Why should they face the possibility of prosecution in that case, but not this one? Aid is aid.

I’m sympathetic to going after the leaker, but here’s a nagging thought few seem to have considered: The leaker or leakers may not be government officials. They may not even be in this country. The leaker may not be an American citizen. If any of that is the case, finding them does…nothing. Or the next best thing to nothing.

Why does everyone assume that the leaker is a government official, and an American on American soil? From the LA Times story, we learn:

The program was initially a closely guarded secret, but it has recently become known to a wider circle of government officials, former officials, banking executives and outside experts.

There’s a lot of leak potential in that expanding circle of people in the know.

The original NYTimes story includes US government officials’ descriptions of SWIFT’s assistance, its legality and its effectiveness in combating terrorists. Those would have been obtained after finding out about the program itself, of course. The stories note that an outside auditing firm was involved (Booz Allen Hamilton), raising the possibility that the leak came from there and not from the government. The stories note that SWIFT executives had become concerned about the program a time or two, raising the possibility that one or more of them were never brought back to an acceptable comfort level and decided to let off some steam in James Risen’s ear. But the original stories don’t say with any specificity who tipped the Times to the existence of the program in the first place, putting Risen and Lichtblau on the trail. Perhaps a European did a job an American had not done, and picked up the phone in his Brussels corner office and rang up the fellow known for blowing the lid off that NSA anti-terror program.

Consider, SWIFT is a Belgian outfit. Headquartered in Brussels, it is a major clearinghouse for financial transactions worldwide. Belgium isn’t exactly the most pro-American country in Europe these days. Do you suppose it’s possible that one Belgian who worked with SWIFT and was aware of its cooperation with us might ring up the Times with a big scoop? Is it possible that one rogue Belgian or Frenchman or whatever who was in the loop and has an anti-American chip on his shoulder decided it might be fun to kick the Americans and their cowboy president in the groin?

I think it’s very possible. And if this turns out to be the case, what then?

Supposing a single leaker is ever found and he turns out to be a European, histrionic European leaders will laud the rogue as a hero. The ACLU will build a statue of him in Berkeley. The left will fete him as their champion because he stuck it to George Bush. He won’t face prosecution in Europe and he’ll be beyond the reach of us. So he’ll skate.

And since we all fear that slippery slope of prosecuting journalists for committing crimes in the course of their work, so will everyone at the Times.

If I’m right or even half right, no one will be held to account for this leak. Its source will either be someone outside US jurisdiction or will be multiple sources inside and outside government, a target so diffuse it will probably be impossible to nab any one of them. The House resolution condemning the leak doesn’t even name any of the papers that ran the story, they’re so nervous about being seen as bashing the media too much. Is there any chance such a spineless government will prosecute anyone connected to this leak? We’re looking at open season on classified material if things go the way I now expect.

When the Times publishes details that effectively make the stealth bomber obsolete, and when it starts publishing actual operational maps depicting detailed troop movements in Iraq and gets pilots shot down and Marines ambushed and killed, perhaps then we’ll all learn that journalists aren’t above the law and should be held accountable before it. But it’s clear to me that we won’t learn that lesson until an awful lot more people in and out of uniform have to die.

What a stupid, stupid country we have become.

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Without even bringing up any First Amenmdment issues, the Executive branch could start by pulling the credentials of every NYT-relarted reporter that covers either the Executive branch or the Defense Dept. That would be a good- and essential- first step. Why haven’t they done it?

Mike O on June 29, 2006 at 10:15 AM

That won’t do anything either. Don’t get me wrong–I’m fine with the idea. Just don’t expect it to change anything.

This leak didn’t come from having White House credentials. It came from the fact that whoever leaked knew they could count on the Times to publish. Taking away the Times’ WH press credential doesn’t change that, and the Times will shrug it off and continue about its business.

Anyone looking for a nice, tight ending to this story after one or two bold moves on the part of the administration or Congress will be very disappointed.

Bryan on June 29, 2006 at 10:24 AM

It is truly perplexing to watch this go down. All I can think is the government is hoping citizens will get mad enough to boycott or otherwise sink the leaking, treasonous media sources via capitalism.
How that will work when there are literally giant cities teeming with anti-American sentiments who love to see their own views spewed in print is beyond me.

Good point about the leakers being foriegn, I think we should go after the Times. Another commentor asked if we can sue the NY Times as citizens, sounds like a good idea to me. It’s an acid-trip-like world when Valerie Plame’s identity is more important than our nation’s self defense against murderers. What the hell?

NTWR on June 29, 2006 at 10:31 AM

Among the Times’ best known advertisers are Cartier, Gucci and Porshe. I already “boycott” them because I can’t afford them, which I suspect is true of 95% of Americans. I don’t subscribe to the Times either, and neither do the vast majority of Americans, so I can’t very well unsubscribe.

I doubt boycotting is much of a recourse here. We can use it to beat our chests and make some noise, but it will have little to no effect on the Times’ bottom line and it’s not likely to change their behavior. They’ll take all of that attention as a badge of honor.

Bryan on June 29, 2006 at 10:40 AM

The same people who have sent our soldiers overseas with orders to fire upon our nation’s enemies are afraid to pull the trigger themselves when it is their responsibilty to do so.

The soldier would be sent to the brig for this kind of failure to engage.

Perchant on June 29, 2006 at 10:43 AM

Bryan, funny, I happen to boycott their advertisers, too!

A suit by the American people against the Times for putting our lives at risk, maybe?

I was required to subscribe to the Slimes for a crappy poli sci class that I dropped after the first week due to discrimination by the prof against anyone he deemed conservative. Now they send me pleas to resubscribe often. I write “you suck” on the notice and send it back in their pre-paid envelope. A small, chest-beating gesture, I know, but it sure brings a sense of accomplishment to me!

NTWR on June 29, 2006 at 11:00 AM

Bryan, what world have you been living in for the last 35 years? In the world I live in, the government wouldn’t have an ice cube’s chance in hell of finding 12 jurors to convict these maggots beyond a reasonable doubt of anything.

But let’s say you get a Federal District Court to convict Heller, Treason and Lickballs — have fun in appellate court. Get past that due to an act of God, and you have the Supreme Court. Do you somehow have a clear image of Anthony Kennedy saying goodbye to NY and Washington cocktail parties for the rest of his life?

I don’t…

Jaibones on June 29, 2006 at 11:02 AM

remember when Keller said that publishing this information about the SWIFT program wouldn’t make other countries stop helping the U.S. track the financials of terrorists?
Check out this link:

pullingmyhairout on June 29, 2006 at 11:08 AM

Everyone agrees with freedom of the press. What the Times has done and will probably continue to do is way beyond any notions the founding fathers had about what a free press is. If congress needs to write a law governing classified material and the press, let’s get writing before the treasonous Times finds something else to tell our enemies about.

darwin on June 29, 2006 at 11:13 AM

Again, as I wrote previously, sue the NY Times for reckless endangerment. Develop a definition of a class. Find an attorney willing to take the case on a contingency fee basis.


chsw on June 29, 2006 at 11:15 AM

Hmmm…. very simple… too simple for those who overthink…

Is knowingly publishing classified information against the Law???

Are Reporters above the Law?

Is this a Nation who believes in the rule of law?

Moral relatavism will be the death of this country. We are now AFRAID of enforcing our own laws… (immigration, NTY, Congressmen hitting people, confiscating guns during Katrina…) and once the rule of law breaks down we’ve got SERIOUS problems folks…

Romeo13 on June 29, 2006 at 11:18 AM
Worth a read. Basically sums up what Romeo is saying, and gives examples of treason prosecutions of the past-usually for much less than what the Times has done. From the article:

But freedom of the press does not mean the government cannot prosecute reporters and editors for treason — or for any other crime. The 1st Amendment does not mean Times editor Bill Keller could kidnap a child and issue his ransom demands from the New York Times editorial page. He could not order a contract killing on the op-ed page. Nor can he take out a contract killing on Americans with a Page 1 story on a secret government program being used to track terrorists who are trying to kill Americans.

NTWR on June 29, 2006 at 11:25 AM

Hey, Bryan. Now that the Supreme Court has failed 5 – 3 to allow the President to use military tribunals to try the subhuman scum that we have holed up in Guantanamo, do you want to rethink your position?

Back to the original point: prosecuting the Times and failing will only strengthen their position and embolden their willingness to undermine national security, if that’s even possible.

No way does this Supreme Court rule in favor of the government against the press…for anything. Not while Stevens and Ginsburg are on the court, and Kennedy has senile liberals to side with.

Jaibones on June 29, 2006 at 11:30 AM

Regardless of whether or not the Times or individual reporters can be prosecuted, there should be no question about whether or not they should pursue the leakers. I’ve heard of no such effort so far; I hope that doesn’t mean there is none. But I fear the worst, as this administration has allowed itself to be intimidated by the press for years. It’s sickening.

Also agree with the poster above stating that a class action lawsuit should be brought against the Times. C’mon, there has to be some lawyers out there looking for a big case …

thirteen28 on June 29, 2006 at 12:03 PM

Just because SCOTUS is a rogue court doesn’t mean we all should add more lawlessness by allowing the NYT to get off with just a boycott or a lot of really strongly worded emails. So no, I’m not rethinking anything.

I’ll reiterate: Go after the leakers. But don’t be surprised when the case even against them–if there even is a case–goes nowhere.

Bryan on June 29, 2006 at 12:13 PM

The issue that sticks in my head is the fact that the LA Times and the Wall Street Journal ran the banking data story as well. I’ve read that they saw the story posted on the NYT website and then decided to run the story after much internal deliberation. Did they all have the same source or sources. Was it just coincidental. What do we as “average Americans’ do now to show our displeasure with the media, the three branches of government has shown they are not willing to construct a checks and balances system for the press. Only the American people can provide the checks and balances on the press that so wrecklessly thumbs its haunty nose at us.

d1carter on June 29, 2006 at 12:14 PM

The leakers were probably members of committees which were briefed on the program during the last 5 years and felt it necessary, for political reasons, to release the info in the last few months, when they were sure to gain at least the House in Nov.

How things have changed, though.

The administration might still list all who have been briefed, closer to Nov. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I were one of the leakers. Those who asked the NYT to hold the story might come out and defend themselves, ahead of election day.

Entelechy on June 29, 2006 at 12:30 PM

Peter King and other committee should hold closed-door hearings. The ‘rats’ are probably in-House.

Entelechy on June 29, 2006 at 12:37 PM

No matter what happens, someone has to pay, big time, and publicly. No more you’re fired but you keep your pension crap. We oughta take a page from the Chicoms, execute the bastards and send the family the bill.

Iblis on June 29, 2006 at 12:43 PM

If what you posit is true Bryan why would the leaker insist on anonymity? Most likely because, if what you think is true, he violated the terms of his employment and could be fired and stand to lose a pension or some other employment perks. Also, if we grab these reporters and force them to reveal sources then they lose credibility and fewer people will leak to them not wanting their lives destroyed if the reporters have to give them up. If the reporters refuse and elect to go to jail to protect the sources AND the government is resolute and keeps them confined for as long as legally possible, despite the expected hue and cry from their buddies in the media, and does so every time classified information is broadcast by reporters then maybe the reporters will think twice about divulging the information. I submit that most reporters would rather not spend a year or two in jail if they can help it. Also to take the martyr effect away the government should do it to everyone who knows who leaked and they should do it in every case when classified information is leaked. I think that occasionally some material should be leaked if something untoward is going on but the leaker should reveal not do so anonymously. If they feel that strongly they should disclose the info, if they leaked something for legitimate reasons they should not face reprisals. I think this would cut down immensely on the purely partisan leaks.

Big E on June 29, 2006 at 12:58 PM

Lets say Bryan’s theory is true and that the leaker is outside US jurisdiction, what then? Even so, prosecuting the NYT’s seems unlikely in any event.

On thing that Bryan wrote that I believe to be true, with the exception of us being a stupid country.

I believe it’s human nature to wait till many die before any action is taken. That’s seems to me, mankinds (human-kine for the PC folks) fault.

Thus the expression, History Repeats.

So, I hope the NYT wears that badge of honor as they dig our graves.

Kini on June 29, 2006 at 1:11 PM

Go after the leaker(s) by putting the Times reporters and their editors under the hot lamp – and when they refuse to give up their precious “whistleblowers,” toss them in jail for contempt and let them rot there until they reconsider, or die.

This way, we can jail at least some of the traitors-masquerading-as-“journalists,” and if we’re lucky they’ll eventually rat on their sources – a two-fer!

Spurius Ligustinus on June 29, 2006 at 1:22 PM


back to the original point: prosecuting the Times and failing will only strengthen their position and embolden their willingness to undermine national security, if that’s even possible.

It’s not possible. It’s the failure to treat these people like the enemy they are that emboldens them to commit more treason.

Prosecuting and failing only strengthens their position if you fail to follow up and attempt to prosecute the next one and the one after that.

Repeatedly attempting to prosecute this behavior would allow it to sink into the American conscience that this is indeed treason. The left will attempt a thing that is wrong over and over again until it becomes acceptable. It seems to be human nature to surrender to a sustained action when those behind the action are committed to it.

Repeated prosecutions would force liberals to repeatedly defend treason. They need more than one jurist out of twelve to win elections.

Perchant on June 29, 2006 at 1:46 PM

The left will attempt a thing that is wrong over and over again until it becomes acceptable. It seems to be human nature to surrender to a sustained action when those behind the action are committed to it.

Since it looks like I called prosecution a negative action, let me clarify and complete the point: If the right action isn’t attempted even once, there is no momentum for making that right action the norm.

Perchant on June 29, 2006 at 2:28 PM

This will never stop until the leakers are sentenced to hard time. It is that simple. There appears ro be a shadow government in place, second guessing the Admistration at every juncture. Remember, Keller said he talked to 20 sources. This leaking undoubtedly goes right to the Democratic Party and probably Jay Rockerfeller who implicated in at least 1 other major leak. Bush must make the case now. The AG must issue an order advising the paper(s) and staff not to destroy any records. Failure to do so is legal malpractice and endangers national security.

pat on June 29, 2006 at 2:29 PM

Perchant (and Bryan):

My heart is with you both, believe me. Nothing would make me happier than an over-the-top aggressive posture by DOJ against our domestic enemies at NY Times. But, as we see today with the idiotic decision by SCOTUS, our system is too weak for that. You and I see it one way, but there are five SC justices and a legion of district court and appellate lefties that see it the other way.

Have you noted that Justice Thomas was so opposed to Stevens’s opinion, he read his own dissent from the bench? First time in 15 years. If their own colleagues see that the 5 lefties are idiots, what are we to do? Rage against the machine?

ACLU is doing the victory dance; NY Times is declaring this abomination a “severe rebuke of the Bush administration.” No, we cannot give them more ammunition to make the administration look like they’re out of control.

Pull their press credentials, start an investigation of the leak, subpoena the reporters and editor (every newspaper that ran the story), demand their sources, hold them in contempt, throw them in jail. But prosecuting the paper for treason is a huge waste of time and credibility, IMAO.

Jaibones on June 29, 2006 at 2:29 PM


Nothing would make me happier than an over-the-top aggressive posture by DOJ against our domestic enemies

Aggressive action against the traitors is required to win the war. There is nothing “over-the-top” about.

Merely “throwing them in jail” isn’t the answer. They threw John Kerry, Jane Fonda and their buddies in jail back in the Vietnam days. They used to walk up to the nearest cop with their wrists extended.

Perchant on June 29, 2006 at 3:15 PM

Well, looks like we have to rewrite our constitution everyone. There are now FOUR branches of government – the executive branch, legislative branch, supreme court and the New York Times. Since the Times thinks that it has definitive right to decide what is classified and what is not, doesn’t this give the Times MORE power than our three branches combined? Just kidding, but it is food for thought…

pullingmyhairout on June 29, 2006 at 3:29 PM

I agree with NTWR, but read the entire column where it originates. Allah’s girlfriend has hit the nail on the head again…

The federal statute on treason, 18 USC 2381, provides in relevant part: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States … adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000.”

Thanks to The New York Times, the easiest job in the world right now is: “Head of Counterintelligence — Al-Qaida.” You just have to read The New York Times over morning coffee, and you’re done by 10 a.m.

So start up an investigation into where the leaks are comming from, drag these lice into a Grand Jury, and if anyone at the Times refuses to give up their sources testimony then let the Treason trial begin. If nothing else it might wake up the MSM to the fact that we aren’t playing games here. ;o)

DannoJyd on June 29, 2006 at 5:07 PM

The answer is simple:

Any organization found to be disseminating classified information will be taken over by the government.

In the case of the NYT, it can also be sited for doing it for profit, as it’s purpose is to make money through the dissemination of the information.

Thirdly, the leakers will be stopped.

pocomoco on June 29, 2006 at 7:03 PM

o . IIIIIII . o

Bishop on August 20, 2012 at 8:42 AM