G. Gordon Liddy on New York Times Anti-Terror Leak

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," June 26, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

DAVID ASMAN, GUEST HOST: President Bush ripped The New York Times for revealing a secret government program, calling the disclosure "disgraceful." New York Congressman Peter King wants the paper to be prosecuted somehow.

Is it time to crack down on the leakers and people reporting that secret information? Let's ask G. Gordon Liddy, a nationally syndicated radio host and a man who is familiar with leaks of all sorts inside the government.

So Mr. Liddy, what should happen to The New York Times first of all?

G. GORDON LIDDY, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: The New York Times cannot be successfully prosecuted. That decision was taken by the Supreme Court of the United States in the Ellsberg case, it's a First Amendment...

ASMAN: Those were the Pentagon Papers.

LIDDY: The Pentagon Papers. And so they have the legal right to do what they did and they cannot be successfully prosecuted. Whether or not it was a good judgment to do that is a completely different question. They say, well, we did it because it's a matter of public interest.

Well, it would have been a matter of public interest to say back in May, D-Day will be the sixth of June and we're not going across the Pas-de-Calais, we're going into Normandy. That would have been horrendously irresponsible. Now what they have just done is horrendously irresponsible.

ASMAN: When you were in the Nixon administration, there is some folklore, of course, has developed about how you suggested dealing with leakers or at least those who published what leakers had leaked to them, like Jack Anderson. But you weren't successful. The leaks went out despite your best efforts at strangling out those leaks didn't work.

LIDDY: That's correct. There are always, it appears, people who have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and to abide by the rules of secrecy and classification system and what have you, who betray that trust and commit the crime of delivering that information to someone else. The fact that it's The New York Times does not make it OK.

ASMAN: Now again, there is John Dean, there was Mark Felt, who was otherwise known as Deep Throat. What should happen to the leakers? We know that maybe we can't prosecute The Times or somebody else, but what about the leakers themselves?

LIDDY: The leakers certainly can be prosecuted. It is a crime to deliberately give to unauthorized personnel classified information.

ASMAN: But will that stop the leaking?

LIDDY: Well, it will stop the leaking from that individual because he will lose his job, he'll lose his access and he won't be able to leak again. It's sort of like the argument for capital punishment. No, there will always be murderers, but that guy won't murder.

ASMAN: But you know, Mr. Liddy, folks will look at this and say, hey, had it not been for certain leaks in the Nixon administration, those that you were trying to squelch as best as you could, we would not have found out about the cover-up of Watergate, for example. Sometimes leaks help clear the air.

LIDDY: Well I don't know what leak you are referring to with respect to Watergate. I mean, there is an awful lot of mythology there. "All the President's Men" was a book about how-to reporters said they went about reporting. And there was a fictitious character called Deep Throat in there, who was a composite. Mark Felt was part of that composite.

ASMAN: But you don't see any — without getting into too much detail — you don't see any purpose at all of leaks ever anywhere in government?

LIDDY: It depends on what it is. If there is a crime being committed, then I would say you have a moral responsibility to report the crime. If you disagree with policy, there is no such moral responsibility. As a matter of fact, there is a moral responsibility not to breach the secrecy.

ASMAN: All right, we've got to leave it at that.

G. Gordon Liddy, thank you very much. Good to see you.

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