29 Apr 2006

Dana Priest on the Law

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Dana Priest, Washington Post reporter and favorite confidante of Mary O. McCarthy and other Pouting Spooks, participated in an on-line discussion Thursday on the topic of National Security. Ms. Priest was asked:

Indianapolis, Ind.: Bill Bennett told Wolf Blitzer the other day that you should be arrested for your story about secret prisons. Wolf asked Howard Kurtz to respond. Howie looked a little stunned at first and then came strongly to your defense. How do you respond to people that are saying you should be arrested?

Dana Priest: Well, first, Bennett either doesn’t understand the law or is purposefully distorting it. He keeps saying that it is illegal to publish secrets. It is not. There is a category of secrets that is illegal to publish–names of covert operatives, certain signal intelligence and nuclear secrets–but even with these, prosecution is possible only under certain circumstances. Beyond that though, he seems to be of the camp that the government and only the government should decide what the public should know in the area of national security. In this sense, his views run contrary to the framers of the Constitution who believed a free press was essential to maintaining not just a democracy, but a strong, vibrant democracy in which major policy is questions are debated in the open.

There you have it.

There are dogmatists, like Bill Bennett, who think only the elected government should decided what is classified information, and which disclosures could be harmful to National Security. And there are more latitudinarian thinkers, like Ms. Priest, who believe disclosing Intelligence secrets in America is kind of like going to Communion in the Anglican Church: none must, some should, all may.

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