Reactions to Espionage Act Ruling:

This Los Angeles Times article quotes some reactions to Wednesday's ruling that individuals who receive and retransmit classified national security information may be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.

"It's a momentous ruling with radical implications," said Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists. "A lot of people who are in the business of gathering information, such as reporters and advocates, are now going to have to grapple with the potential threat of prosecution. The dividing line has always been between leakers, who may be prosecuted, and the recipients of the leak, who have never been. Now that dividing line has been erased." . . .

Prosecutors have said that for the espionage law to be invoked, an individual possessing secret information must intend to cause harm to America. But they have not ruled out the possibility of charging journalists.

Some legal experts are skeptical of the judge's reasoning that safeguards are sufficient to prevent abusive prosecutions.

"It is predicated on an idea that the executive and judicial branches will operate with rectitude and only prosecute cases where there is a genuine risk of harming national security" rather than political considerations, said Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota. "It presumes a degree of honest government that, sadly, does not always exist."

Aftergood and Kirtley said they knew of no other case where the United States was seeking criminal charges against someone other than a government employee who clearly violated a nondisclosure agreement.

The story also notes that there is a federal grand jury looking into the leaks relating to NSA surveillance activities reported in the press. Howard Bashman rounds up more press coverage here.