The New York Times may be in a deeper hole than just the loss of credibility and trust of the people. Scott Johnson at Powerline does a yeomans job of outlining the legal trouble the Gray Lady may be in:
"Since the New York Times published the Risen/Lichtblau NSA story on December 16, we have cited the federal law that makes the disclosures on which the story is based a crime. The federal law is 18 U.S.C. § 798, a law that precisely prohibits leaks of the type of classified information disclosed in the story. Subsection (a) of the statute provides:Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information—"Subsection (b) defines the critical terms of the statute; suffice it to say that I believe they are clearly applicable to the conduct of the "nearly a dozen current and former govenment officials" who spoke to the Times. Their violation of the statute is a felony. Because their disclosures to the Times were illegal, these current and former government officials sought the promise of confidentiality from the Times to protect their identity..."
(1) concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or
(2) concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States or any foreign government for cryptographic or communication intelligence purposes; or
(3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or
(4) obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government, knowing the same to have been obtained by such processes—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
John Hinderaker adds in the conclusion:
" My guess is that the Times' decision to commit a crime by publishing the leaked information was based on a political calculation, not a legal one. They probably think the administration lacks the will to prosecute them, and that if the administration makes the effort, the Times will have a winning hand politically, and the Democrats will benefit. They're probably right on the first point, if not the second. Still, with Pinch Sulzberger, Bill Keller, and the reporters and editors involved in the story potentially facing time in a federal penitentiary, the paper is taking a terrible risk.
In any event, it is deeply revolting to see the Times denouncing President Bush for failing to "respect the boundaries of the law.""
The "chickens coming home to roost" saying seems to be true in this case. The NYT was so adamant about a full investigation into the Plame affair seems to have come back to bite them. What were they thinking? Maybe the thought that since they were the great New York Times, the paper of record at one time that they are immune to the laws of the United States and that they were the fourth branch of government, with full immunity and impunity.