Is The New York Times guilty of spying for al Qaida? asked Gabriel Schoenfeld in Commentary magazine. Under our country's Espionage Act, the answer is a definitive 'œyes.' Back in December, the Times reported that the National Security Agency has been eavesdropping on thousands of people in the U.S. who have been communicating with suspected terrorists abroad. The Bush administration asked the Times not to publish the story, arguing that the surveillance program is an essential component of its efforts to prevent another 9/11 on American soil. 'œSerenely confident' in their rectitude, the newspaper's editors printed the story anyway, arguing that it was their duty to tell the world that the Bush administration was not getting warrants for its wiretaps, in possible violation of the law. But even the First Amendment provides no exemption for spying for the enemy. What the Times did was no different, morally or legally, than slipping a top-secret document to an al Qaida operative. 'œThe laws governing what the Times has done are perfectly clear. Will they be enforced?'
Let's hope not, said Michael Barone in USnews.com. The Times may, in fact, have violated the Espionage Act, and after years of its anti-American, anti-Bush bias, we conservatives would find it 'œdelicious' to see the liberal newspaper's editors and executives prosecuted and hauled off to jail. But enforcement of the Espionage Act has been exceedingly rare since it was passed in 1917, and over that time, plenty of newspapers have disclosed government secrets without prosecution. Singling out the Times makes me 'œqueasy,' since it would look like 'œpolitical persecution' by a vengeful Bush administration. Besides, the Times' disclosures didn't really damage national security, said Stuart Taylor Jr. in The National Journal. Terrorists 'œknow perfectly well that we are spying on them every which way we can.'
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
The Weekly Standard
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.