As the net widens, the noose gets tighter...

Inquiry Into Wiretapping Article Widens

"WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 — Federal agents have interviewed officials at several of the country's law enforcement and national security agencies in a rapidly expanding criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding a New York Times article published in December that disclosed the existence of a highly classified domestic eavesdropping program, according to government officials.

The investigation, which appears to cover the case from 2004, when the newspaper began reporting the story, is being closely coordinated with criminal prosecutors at the Justice Department, the officials said. People who have been interviewed and others in the government who have been briefed on the interviews said the investigation seemed to lay the groundwork for a grand jury inquiry that could lead to criminal charges.

The inquiry is progressing as a debate about the eavesdropping rages in Congress and elsewhere. President Bush has condemned the leak as a "shameful act." Others, like Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director, have expressed the hope that reporters would be summoned before a grand jury and asked to reveal the identities of those who provided them classified information.

Mr. Goss, speaking at a Senate intelligence committee hearing on Feb. 2, said: "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. I believe the safety of this nation and the people this country deserve nothing less."

The case is viewed as potentially far reaching because it places on a collision course constitutional principles that each side regards as paramount. For the government, the investigation represents an effort to punish those responsible for a serious security breach and enforce legal sanctions against leaks of classified information at a time of heightened terrorist threats. For news organizations, the inquiry threatens the confidentiality of sources and the ability to report on controversial national security issues free of government interference.

....add several staffers and aides of a certain Senator to the list of those interviewed.

For back ground see here. Question is now, "What will Rocky do now?"

UPDATE: Clarice Feldman at American Thinker also brings the point that the journalist involved in this face a tough road ahead:

"There’s much that’s interesting in this story. First, the paper’s tom- toming for the Plame investigation led to the rejection of a First Amendment claim of privilege by the paper in the Miller case. Secondly, the article makes clear that the investigators are FIRST looking to determine if the predicates for a statutory violation can be proven before initiating a demand upon reporters or initiating a prosecution—which would have been the path Fitzgerald should have chosen in the Libby case. For it is clear this preliminary bar was never met in that case, rhetoric in a press release being no substitute for actual evidence which he now claims isn’t “material”."

A point I made here as well.


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