If the '70s Spook Runs Amok, Miller's Out of Luck


As Time caves like the Third Republic, Judith Miller gets ready for the clink, and Robert Novak characterizes the notion that he might be even slightly culpable as "madness," it's worth pondering for a second that, as I wrote in the March issue, "the Plame case is a festival of unintended consequences." When you pass federal laws restricting the speech of even CIA employees, sooner or later they'll be perverted to prosecute those who make a living at free expression. This December 2004 Wall Street Journal op-ed, by David Rivkin and Bruce Sanford, explains how the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, passed after renegade CIA agent Philip Agee kept "outing" the agency's foreign operatives, has gone from a forgotten statute that netted exactly one (1) prosecution in 23 years, to providing the justification for a Putin-style lock-up of a journalist who never even wrote an article about the subject at hand. Excerpt:

[J]ailing journalists for refusing to divulge their sources to a grand jury which never really had a crime to investigate, [is] a situation that makes the prosecution of Martha Stewart for lying about a stock transaction which in itself was not illegal look positively benign by comparison.

We will have ended up with the precise situation the press feared when it fought against the Agee bill 20 years ago–reporters, not enemies of the CIA, facing prison–and yet another testament to the mess that happens when Congress tries to criminalize certain kinds of speech.