Prosecute The Leakers, Not The New York Times

Rep. Peter King cited The New York Times in particular for publishing a story last week that the Treasury Department was working with the CIA to examine messages within a massive international database of money-transfer records.

King, R-N.Y., said he would write Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urging that the nation’s chief law enforcer “begin an investigation and prosecution of The New York Times _ the reporters, the editors and the publisher.”

“We’re at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous,” King told The Associated Press.”

What the New York Times did was absolutely despicable and it unnecessarily put American lives at risk. However, prosecuting the New York Times is the wrong way to deal with the problem.

If the government is allowed to start holding jail time over the heads of members of the press for reporting classified info, we’ll risk tumbling down the slippery slope in a hurry. Government officials hate it when any classified or secret data is revealed, whether it’s related to national security or not, and if they can get away with forbidding the press from printing it, they’ll do so. That would not be in keeping with the First Amendment or in the best interests of the country.

So, does that mean we just have to live with leaks that put our national security at risk? Not at all. What we need to do — and haven’t been doing — is to aggressively investigate every significant national security leak.

Start things out by asking the reporters to reveal their sources. If they don’t give them up, throw them in jail for contempt until they give up the source. Once the government learns the identity of the source who knowingly broke the law by giving out classified info, we should throw everything in the book at them and make sure they end up breaking big rocks into smaller rocks for a couple of decades.

After that happens a few times, guess what? The national security leaks will stop, Americans will be safer, and Al-Qaeda won’t be able to use the New York Times as their own personal counter-intelligence unit anymore. That’s the right way to put a stop to these leaks.

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