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Gonzales says reporters can be prosecuted for publishing classified information

[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile; JURIST news archive] said that the government has authority to prosecute journalists for publishing classified material under several "statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility." In an appearance [recorded video] on ABC's "This Week" Sunday, Gonzales said that journalists' obligations to national security is greater than the First Amendment [text] right of a free press. Although Gonzales did not specify what statutes he was referring to, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press [advocacy website] Executive Director Lucy Dalglish speculated that Gonzales was referencing the 1917 Espionage Act [PDF text], even though no one has ever used it to prosecute journalists. Gonzales stated that the government will track telephone calls of journalists as part of a criminal leak investigation, but denied that the government would randomly track their domestic-to-domestic phone calls simply to identify their confidential sources. A court order would be necessary to review the content of the phone records.

Journalists have recently been subpoenaed to testify [JURIST report] in the investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity [JURIST news archive] and have also come under scrutiny for the leak of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. In a January court filing [PDF text], DOJ lawyers asserted that journalists can be prosecuted [JURIST report] for receiving or publishing classified information under the 18 USC 793 [text]. AP has more.

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