Frontiers of the First Amendment: The Israeli Spy Case

In 2005, the Bush Justice Department dusted off the dangerous and poorly drafted Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute the “unauthorized receipt and transmittal of classified information by private citizens who are not engaged in espionage.” (Thanks to Secrecy News for that formulation.)

In other words, the kind of transaction that happens every day between reporters and national security officials in Washington, D.C.

Fortunately, the case was dismissed yesterday.

The danger this case posed to the First Amendment was shrouded by the fact that the defendants were not reporters, but former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbyists. Although this bizarre and confusing prosecution didn’t receive widespread attention (aside from its recent connection to the Jane Harman-wiretapping story), it posed a mortal danger to a free press. So even if, like me, you’re not a big fan of AIPAC, its dismissal is very good news.