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Bush administration says press may be prosecuted for publishing classified documents

[JURIST] The Bush administration has indicated that journalists can be prosecuted for receiving or publishing classified information under the United States Espionage Act [18 USC 793 text; Wikipedia backgrounder]. US Department of Justice lawyers made the assertion in a January 30 response [PDF] to a motion by lawyers for two lobbyists accused of receiving and passing on classified information unsealed earlier this week. To date, no member of the press has been prosecuted under the law, and officials say the event would raise serious issues and would not be undertaken lightly.

The DOJ asserts that there is no statutory exemption on culpability for press, let alone lobbyists when classified information is concerned. Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, lobbyists for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) [official website] were indicted [JURIST report] last August in connection with receiving classified information during conversations with government officials. The Washington Post has more.

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