Probe of domestic eavesdropping leak expands-Times
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Federal agents have interviewed
officials at several law enforcement and national security
agencies in a criminal investigation into The New York Times’
disclosure of a U.S. domestic eavesdropping program, the
In a story posted to its Web site to appear in its Sunday
editions, The Times said the investigation was focused on
circumstances surrounding its disclosure late last year of the
highly classified program.
Officials and others interviewed by the Times said the
investigation seemed to lay the groundwork for a grand jury
inquiry and possible criminal charges, the Times said.
Many described the investigation as aggressive and fast
moving, with the initial focus on identifying government
officials who have had contacts with Times reporters,
particularly those in the newspaper’s Washington bureau.
It said an FBI team had questioned employees at the FBI,
the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the CIA
and the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and
that prosecutors had taken steps to activate a grand jury.
President George W. Bush has condemned the leak as a
“shameful act” and CIA Director Porter Goss told a Senate
Intelligence Committee hearing on February 2:
“It is my aim, and it is my hope that we will witness a
grand jury investigation with reporters present being asked to
reveal who is leaking this information.”
The Times characterized the case as one that pits the
government, for which “the investigation represents an effort
to punish those responsible for a serious security breach” and
news outlets, for which the inquiry threatens confidentiality
of sources “and the ability to report on controversial national
security issues free of government interference.”
The newspaper’s executive editor, Bill Keller, said no one
at the paper had been contacted in connection with the
investigation, and defended the Times’ reporting on the story.
“What our reporting has done is set off an intense national
debate about the proper balance between security and liberty,”
Keller said in the story.
Civil liberties groups, Democratic lawmakers and even some
Republicans have called for an inquiry into the eavesdropping
program, saying it appears to have circumvented the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires court approval
for eavesdropping on U.S. citizens.
Former Vice President Al Gore has called for a special
prosecutor to investigate the government’s use of the program,
and Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers Jr. has said the
eavesdropping effort might amount to an impeachable offense.
Among statutes being reviewed by Justice Department
investigators are espionage laws that prohibit the disclosure,
dissemination or publication of national security information,
the Times said.