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NSA Leak Case Watch: Justice Deptartment Probing Domestic Spying Leak

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, left, speaks during a news conference about the Patriot Act at the Justice Department in Washington, in a Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2005 photo. The Justice Department has opened an investigation Justice officials said Friday, Dec. 30, 2005. into the leak of classified information about President Bush’s secret domestic spying program.

The ASSociated Press has Justice Dept. Probing Domestic Spying Leak

The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the leak of classified information about President Bush’s secret domestic spying program, Justice officials said Friday.

The officials, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe, said the inquiry will focus on disclosures to The New York Times about warrantless surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Times revealed the existence of the program two weeks ago in a front-page story that acknowledged the news had been withheld from publication for a year, partly at the request of the administration and partly because the newspaper wanted more time to confirm various aspects of the program.

Catherine Mathis, a spokeswoman for The Times, said the paper will not comment on the investigation.

Flap wonders if Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA Leak Case is available? Or, if the Justice Department will finally end his futile attempt to prosecute Scooter Libby?

The Justice Department’s investigation was being initiated after the agency received a request for the probe from the NSA.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been conducting a separate leak investigation to determine who in the administration leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name to the media in 2003.

Several reporters have been called to testify before a grand jury or to give depositions. New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail, refusing to reveal her source, before testifying in the probe.

Looks like more jail time for New York Times reporters.

Prosecute this case!

Update #1

Michelle Malkin has FINALLY: JUSTICE DEPT. OPENS NSA LEAK PROBE

AJ Strata and Stop the ACLU are tracking the story. Mac Ranger has an inside source. Flopping Aces reports on Beltway Buzz.

Random thoughts:

1) Won’t be long before we start hearing the Bush-haters at the Times and elsewhere moaning about how this probe is a waste of time/distraction from the important business of Congress/politically motivated(!).

2) Look for the Plamegate apologists to argue that the NSA leaks were “good” leaks, justified in the name of safeguarding civil liberties and the national interest, and should therefore be exempt from criminal prosecution.

By contrast, they argue that disclosures about Valerie Plame were “bad” leaks worthy of pulling out all prosecutorial stops–though no one has been charged with leaking classified info, and even if they did, the adverse effects on national security are infinitesimal compared to the damage done by the NYT/NSA leaks.

The law, may I remind the Bush-bashers, does not grant an exception based on leakers’ motives. See Scott Johnson’s analysis of the statutory language here.

3) The chickens will be coming home to roost at the Times, which crusaded loudly for a special prosecutor in Plamegate. Any bets on how long it will take for Eric Lichtblau and James Risen to roll over? I’d guess a few weeks after Risen’s book launch.

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