I’m coming around to the view that its reckless indifference to the necessity for secrecy in the pursuit of terrorists is prosecutable. For more along these lines, go here, here, here (just keep scrolling), here (once again, just keep scrolling), and here.
Today’s NYT contains an editorial defending its publication of the story. The concerns are all hypothetical and the safeguards are all concrete. Administrative subpoenas have been used, though Arlen Specter wonders if they’ve been overbroad. And when members of Congress are briefed on a secret program, the folks at the NYT worry that the obligation that they have to keep it secret ties their hands. In other words, it the NYT’s world, there should be no secrets. All goods are subordinate to transparency. But the First Amendment is not the only text that’s part of the Constitution. And security is an important consideration, as any responsible political leader knows. Perhaps the folks at the NYT would argue that a free press is part of a system of checks and balances. Fair enough. But no part of such a system should itself not be subject to checks. There are laws that control the revelation and publication of classified information. The Bush Administration should certainly go aggressively after those who spoke with the reporters. But as I said earlier, I’m not so sure that the newspapers themselves should be immune.
Finally, a last word on the politics of this latest revelation: my impression is that every time word gets out about a Bush Administration program to pursue information in an attempt to trace terrorists, people approve of the program. This tends to help the President. If it were only about politics, the President ought to welcome such reports, because they bolster his standing with the American people. They also give him an issue on the basis of which to pick a fight with the press, which, in the court of public opinion, he’s likely to win. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Karl Rove is behind the whole thing.