“It’s highly doubtful in my mind that that was ever the intent of Congress,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said.
The World War I-era espionage laws, countered Justice Department criminal division chief Matthew Friedrich, “do not exempt any class of professionals, including reporters, from their reach.”
“I believe that’s an invitation to Congress to legislate on the subject,” replied Specter, R-Pennsylvania. “Clearly, the ball is in our court.”
Friedrich refused to comment on the Anderson case, in which the FBI is seeking 50 years’ worth of papers from the investigative journalist who exposed government scandals and earned a place on President Nixon’s “enemies list.”
Friedrich’s response echoed deferrals by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other Justice Department officials in previous hearings on the administration’s domestic wiretapping, phone tapping and other policies. Specter and other committee members grew exasperated.
“Why in heaven’s name were you sent up here?” ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont fumed. “Are there any questions you guys are allowed to answer other than your title, time of day?”