Specifically, the president and some of his supporters say reporters and publishers have violated a provision of the 1917 Espionage Act, which provides in part that anyone in unauthorized possession "of information relating to the national defense, which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States" who willfully communicates it to any person not entitled to receive it "shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both."
But for at least three reasons, such threats are largely empty. First, the provision was never intended to be used against the press. When the Espionage Act was proposed by President Woodrow Wilson, it included a section that would expressly have made it a crime for the press to publish information that the president had declared to be "of such character that it is or might be useful to the enemy." Congress overwhelmingly rejected that proposal, with members of both parties characterizing it as "un-American" and "an instrument of tyranny."
Second, if the 1917 act were meant to apply to journalists, it would unquestionably violate the First Amendment. Laws regulating speech must be precisely tailored to prohibit only speech that may constitutionally be proscribed. This requirement addresses the concern that overbroad laws will chill the willingness of individuals to speak freely.
Not surprisingly, because the act was drafted before the Supreme Court had ever interpreted the First Amendment in a relevant manner, it does not incorporate any of the safeguards the court has since held the Constitution requires. For example, the provision of the act is not limited only to published accounts that pose a "clear and present danger" to the nation. For this reason, it seems clear, any prosecution of the press under it would be dismissed out of hand by the judiciary.
Third, if Congress today enacted legislation that incorporated the requirements of the First Amendment, it could not apply to articles like those published by The Times and The Post. Such a statute would have to be limited to articles that, first, do not disclose information of legitimate and important public interest and, second, pose a clear and present danger. Nobody could deny that articles like those on secret prisons and electronic surveillance of Americans clearly concerned matters of legitimate and important public interest; nor could the administration show that such disclosures created a clear and present danger of serious harm to the national security.
The Bush regime and its supporters simply do not want to be accountable to the people, their employers. And for that reason, they are unfit to be in positions of power at the very least, and in my opinion represent a clear and present danger to the liberty of Americans themselves.
This sort of thing has been hyped by Powerline, especially, which to me makes them apologists for tyrants.