Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Prosecution of the Chicago Tribune

From the National Security Archives:
Documents posted today by the George Washington University-based National Security Archive detail FBI, Justice Department, and Navy efforts to charge the Tribune with damaging national security by indirectly alluding to U.S. penetration of Japan’s naval codes – one of the most sensitive secrets of the day. But federal prosecutors dropped the case after senior officials expressed doubts about whether the Tribune and its correspondent knowingly acted improperly and after Navy brass chose not to allow public testimony for fear of increasing the chances Japan would realize its codes had been compromised.

The Tribune case was the first time the U.S. government tried to pursue charges against a major media source under the Espionage Act for publishing classified information – making it of particular interest in the current political environment.

Today’s posting draws on grand jury records that had been sealed for decades until historian Elliot Carlson, joined by the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press, the National Security Archive, and other historians’ organizations, filed a lawsuit for their release. A court ruled in favor of the suit on June 10, 2015, but the government appealed, sending the case to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided 2-1 on September 15, 2016, to unseal the files. They are now available to researchers at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland. This is the latest in a series of judicial decisions to open grand jury records of historical importance, including from the investigations of Alger Hiss and Julius Rosenberg. (Read more.)

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