From Publishers Weekly
The December 2005 publication of a front-page New York Times
piece about an NSA wiretapping program is the inciting incident at the heart of this provocative consideration of the conflict between the need for government secrecy and the role of a free press. Schoenfeld (The Return of Anti-Semitism
), senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, publicly accused the paper of violating the law when it published the article. Here, the author concerns himself less with the specifics of the 2005 incident than the larger theoretical and historical questions it raises. The book goes back to the First and Second Continental Congresses to show that the founders believed the defense of national security made complete transparency impossible. It then jumps ahead to the 1917 Espionage Act, the critical legislation, in Schoenfeld's thesis, locating where secrecy and security trump freedom of the press—as it did until Daniel Ellsberg's leak of the classified Pentagon Papers to the Times
. If Schoenfeld's argument sometimes feels one-sided, he succeeds in scrutinizing an issue of vital importance and putting it into a much broader context. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In 2006, conservative commentator Schoenfeld published an editorial in which he called for the prosecution of certain New York Times journalists under espionage laws for reporting details of the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping activity within the U.S. With this selection, Schoenfeld reasserts his complaint against the Times in the context of a broader discussion about the historical role of secrecy in American government. Examining the Founders’ attitudes toward government secrets as well as certain precedent-setting incidents such as Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers, he argues that the government should more aggressively assert its prerogative to control certain information, particularly that pertaining to national security, by prosecuting leakers and those who would publish sensitive leaked information. His primary frustration, however, is not with the government’s demonstrated reluctance to prosecute leakers (often for fear of further disclosures in court) but with the confidently adversarial stance of post-Watergate journalism in general. Though uncovering some fascinating and largely forgotten moments in American history—the 1931 Black Chamber affair, for example—this selection may put off some readers with its polemical tenor. --Brendan Driscoll