Some beauty queens might expect to get questions about world peace.
But the question asked of the newly minted Miss America on Saturday night touched on a less generalized topic: secrets outlet WikiLeaks.
“Everybody’s talking about the WikiLeaks, how do we balance people’s right to know with the need for government security?” Teresa Scanlan was asked.
“You know when it came to that situation it was actually based on espionage, and when it comes to the security of our nation we have to focus on security first, and then people’s right to know,” the teen replied.
“Because it’s so important that everyone in our borders is safe, and so we can’t let things like that happen and they must be handled properly, and I think that was the case,” she added.
Her answer, concise as it were, was actually wrong.
The US has never successfully prosecuted recipients of leaked information under the Espionage Act of 1917. That act criminalized “obtaining information respecting the national defense with intent or reason to believe that the information to be obtained is to be used to the injury of the United States.”
In a similar 1971 case, the US cited the Espionage Act in arguing that it could force The New York Times to suspend publishing the then-classified Pentagon Papers. The Supreme Court ruled that the government had not met its “heavy burden” in showing a justification for stopping the publication.
Indications are that the US knows that it would not be successful in using the Espionage Act to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The Justice Department had instead been looking at prosecuting Assange for conspiring with Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier thought to have leaked 260,000 US State Department cables.
For his part, Assange denied having any contact with Manning and the US had not brought charges.
This video is from ABC’s Miss America 2010, broadcast Jan. 1, 2010.