Politics

Surveillance Gate – Equal Opportunity Investigating

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News of the Justice Department’s announcement of an investigation into the leaking of classified information by the New York Times will no doubt bring claims of the administration trying to deflect attention away from the legalities of actions associated with their post 9/11 surveillance activities.

The Justice Department said on Friday that it had opened a criminal investigation into the disclosure of classified information about a secret National Security Agency program under which President Bush authorized eavesdropping on people in the United States without court warrants.

The investigation began in recent days after a formal referral from the security agency regarding the leak, federal officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the investigation.

Since the NYT made its revelation, the debate has not involved much scrutiny as to the legalities (let alone impacts upon national security) associated with the leaked information and eventual disclosure.

The president last week denounced in strong language the leaking of information about the agency’s program, saying: “My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we’re discussing this program is helping the enemy.”

Privacy advocates on Friday said the leak investigation should be set aside, at least for now, in favor of an investigation of the warrantless eavesdropping itself.

If there’s going to be an investigation of the warrantless eavesdropping, then by all means an investigation of the leaks themselves needs to be held in conjunction.

What kind of message would be delivered in downplaying the damage that can result from these types of leaks and disclosures?

Doesn’t the press bear a degree of responsibility in taking into account the ramifications of such activities (publishing classified information)?