Saturday, December 16, 2006

Four Affairs

Courtesy of, a glimpse of what the New York Times has to say concerning a new and creative use of subpoena power:

A Gag on Free SpeechThe New York Times | Editorial
Friday 15 December 2006

The Bush administration is trampling on the First Amendment and well-established criminal law by trying to use a subpoena to force the American Civil Liberties Union to hand over a classified document in its possession...

Justice Department lawyers have issued a grand jury subpoena to the A.C.L.U. demanding that it hand over "any and all copies" of the three-and-a-half-page government document, which was recently leaked to the group....

There are at least two serious problems with the government's action. It goes far beyond what the law recognizes as the legitimate purpose of a subpoena. Subpoenas are supposed to assist an investigation, but the government does not need access to the A.C.L.U.'s document for an investigation since it already has its own copy. It is instead trying to confiscate every available copy of the document... The A.C.L.U. says it knows of no other case in which a grand jury subpoena has been used this way.

The subpoena is also a prior restraint because the government is trying to stop the A.C.L.U. in advance from speaking about the document's contents. The Supreme Court has held that prior restraints are almost always unconstitutional. The danger is too great that the government will overreach and use them to ban protected speech or interfere with free expression by forcing the media, and other speakers, to wait for their words to be cleared in advance....

If the A.C.L.U.'s description of its secret document is correct, there is no legitimate national defense issue. The document does not contain anything like intelligence sources or troop movements, the group says. It is merely a general statement of policy whose release "might perhaps be mildly embarrassing to the government."...

And here at ThinkProgress, in fact, is an example of prior restraint standing forth in full regalia. The White House has decided that it, not the CI A, will decide what's classified and what's not, and according to author whose ox has been gored, it's classified or not depending on what someone intends to say about it.

EXCLUSIVE: White House Forbids Publication Of Op-Ed On Iran By Former Bush Official

Middle East analyst Flynt Leverett, who served under President Bush on the National Security Council and is now a fellow at the New America Foundation, revealed today that the White House has been blocking the publication of an op-ed he wrote for the New York Times. The column is critical of the administration’s refusal to engage Iran.

Leverett’s op-ed has already been cleared by the CIA, where he was a senior analyst. Leverett explained, “I’ve been doing this for three and a half years since leaving government, and I’ve never had to go to the White House to get clearance for something that I was publishing as long as the CIA said, ‘Yeah, you’re not putting classified information.’”

...Leverett says the incident shows “just how low people like Elliot Abrams at the NSC [National Security Council] will stoop to try and limit the dissemination of arguments critical of the administration’s policy.”...

Elsewhere, 40 "mostly middle-aged" women were tried for a variety of offenses after being caught in a reportedly "threatening" activity, namely, trying to deliver a petition while laughing, singing, wearing pink and being "clearly happy," Lord forbid!

Again thanks to truthout :

Peace Women, Convicted of Trespassing, Teach the US Government a Lesson in Diplomacy
By Medea Benjamin
t r u t h o u t | Guest Contributor
Thursday 14 December 2006

It must sound absurd, perhaps even unbelievable, that four peace women were arrested and put on trial for attempting to deliver a peace petition to the US Mission to the United Nations....

On March 6, 2006, CODEPINK organized a group of about 40 women, including a delegation from Iraq, and held a press conference in front of the United Nations, in New York City, to call for an end to the war in Iraq and commemorate International Women's Day. The group then marched a few blocks to the US Mission to deliver a petition signed by 72,000 women from around the world.

The previous year...CODEPINK had delivered a similar petition without incident...This year, to our surprise and horror, we found the building had been locked up to keep us out and we were surrounded by armed police and security guards. After an hour of urging them to either let a small group inside or have someone come down to "just accept the damn piece of paper," the four women representatives... were handcuffed and dragged to a police wagon...We were charged with trespassing, two counts of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstructing government administration.

Nine months later, the trial of the "CODEPINK Four" started in the Manhattan Criminal Court and dragged on for over a week...

The head of communications for the US Mission, Richard Grenell, was the most absurd of the witnesses. While a videotape we introduced as evidence showed a group of about 40 mostly middle-aged women strolling toward the Mission singing Give Peace a Chance, Mr. Grenell testified that he found the group threatening because "they were wearing pink, they were laughing and they were clearly happy."...

...The jury acquitted us of the more serious misdemeanor charges and found us guilty of trespassing, a violation akin to a parking ticket. After paying a $95 court fee, we were free....

So as soon as the court adjourned, we immediately returned to the same US Mission to deliver the same petition....

This time,without difficulty.

And at the same time, centralized information control clamps down at the U.S. Geological Survey. As the AP story points out, this is part of a well-established trend.

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is clamping down on scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the latest agency subjected to controls on research that might go against official policy.

New rules require screening of all facts and interpretations by agency scientists who study everything from caribou mating to global warming. The rules apply to all scientific papers and other public documents, even minor reports or prepared talks, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press...

"This is not about stifling or suppressing our science, or politicizing our science in any way," Barbara Wainman, the agency's communications director, said Wednesday. "What it was designed to do is to improve our product flow."...

"...I worry that it borders on censorship," said Jim Estes, an internationally recognized marine biologist in the USGS field station at Santa Cruz, Calif.

...From now on, USGS supervisors will demand to see the comments of outside peer reviewers' as well any exchanges between the scientists who are seeking to publish their findings and the reviewers.

Of course, there is something to be said for not blindsiding top officials of your organization with shocking new findings; but as one who has been there, in this era this kind of thing has proved to be about more than coordination -- it's about top-down message control, no matter how slickly worded the rationalization.

In the context of everything else that is going on, it's reasonable to interpret this as another case of publicly funded research and information being converted to the private property of the party in power -- to use or suppress as they see fit, for political gain.


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