March 12, 2004

EUGENE VOLOKH is confused by press reports that Susan Lindauer, the former Democratic Congressional staffer, journalist, and "peace activist" charged with being an Iraqi agent, was a "spy."

I think this is media sloppiness. If you read the indictment, you'll see that she's charged with being an "unregistered foreign agent," among other things. I think that reporters read "agent" as "intelligence agent," meaning "spy." But there are all sorts of ways to be a foreign agent without being a spy. I don't know if she provided intelligence or not -- you could provide "political intelligence" without having access to secrets, I suppose -- but it's notable that the indictment does not charge her with espionage.

If you see other people who were being paid off by Saddam prosecuted, you may well see similar confusion. It's possible to violate all sorts of quite strict laws (many of very long standing -- this isn't a Patriot Act issue) by working for a foreign country that's subject to U.S. sanctions, without being an actual spy.