Tony Blankley

This week in the New Yorker magazine, Seymour Hersh wrote the following words:
"The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran ... Much of the focus is on accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Iranian nuclear, chemical and missile sites. ... (The) American commando task force has been set up in South Asia and is now working closely with a group of Pakistani scientists and technicians who had dealt with Iranian counterparts ... The American task force ... .has been penetrating eastern Iran from Afghanistan in a hunt for underground installations ... The task force members, or their locally recruited agents, secreted remote detection devices ... "

 Title 18 United States Code section 794, subsection (b) prohibits anyone "in time of war, with intent that the same shall be communicated to the enemy [from publishing] any information with respect to the movement, numbers, or disposition of any of the Armed Forces ... of the United States ...  or supposed plans or conduct of any ... military operations ... or any other information relating to the public defense, which might be useful to the enemy ... [this crime is punishable] by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life."

 Subsection (a) of that statute prohibits anyone "with ... reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicates ... to any representative, officer, agent, employee, subject or citizen thereof, either directly or indirectly, any information relating to the national defense, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life."

 I am not an expert on these federal code sections, but a common sense reading of their language would suggest, at the least, that federal prosecutors should review the information disclosed by Mr. Hersh to determine whether or not his conduct falls within the proscribed conduct of the statute.

 In the fairly recent past, at least one journalist writing for Jane's Publications has been successfully prosecuted under the statute, freedom of speech and the press not being a defense to espionage. Remember, in the famous Pentagon Papers case, the issue was prior restraint. Could the government stop a newspaper from publishing government secrets relating not to current operations but to prior planning? The answer then was no. But in the current matter of Seymour Hersh and the New Yorker, they have been free to publish the article. The question is whether or not any legal consequences attach to that decision.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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