In a major development, a federal grand jury is investigating the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. A subpoena delivered to former NSA officer Russell Tice says the grand jury is looking at possible violations of the Espionage Act and other statutes. But it’s not clear at this point whether the New York Times is being probed for receiving and publicizing illegal leaks of classified information.
Accuracy in Media has urged that the Times be prosecuted in connection with its December 2005 story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau about a secret NSA counterterrorism program.
On the website of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, which disclosed the subpoena, Professor William Weaver said that Tice “is the only publicly identified NSA employee connected to the New York Times in its December 2005 story?”
The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition regards Tice, who says America had descended into a “police state,” as a fellow “whistleblower.”
In its story about this development, Scott Shane of the Times reported, “Leaks about secret counterterrorist programs, and the decision of The Times and other news media outlets to publish information on them, have been roundly denounced by President Bush and other administration officials. Some civil libertarians have defended the leaks as acts of conscience on the part of federal workers trying to stop illegal or unethical government activities.”
The story also said that “Mr. Tice said that he had discussed unclassified information about the security agency with reporters for The Times and other publications but that he had always been careful not to reveal classified information.”
Perhaps the grand jury wants to find out if that is true or not.
Prosecutors should go beyond Tice to the Times itself. They should put Risen and Lichtblau on the stand and threaten them with jail time if they won’t talk.