Washington Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales said Sunday he believes journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information, citing an obligation to national security.
"There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility," Gonzales said, referring to prosecutions. "We have an obligation to enforce those laws. We have an obligation to ensure that our national security is protected."
In recent months, journalists have been called into court to testify as part of investigations into leaks, including the unauthorized disclosure of a CIA operative's name as well as the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping program.
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said she presumed that Gonzales was referring to the 1917 Espionage Act, which she said has never been interpreted to prosecute journalists who were providing information to the public.
"I can't imagine a bigger chill on free speech and the public's right to know what its government is up to - both hallmarks of a democracy - than prosecuting reporters," Dalglish said.