Blogs > Liberty and Power > It's criminal because I say so!

May 22, 2006 1:44 pm


It's criminal because I say so!



To start the week on a cheery note, the Attorney General says that “The government has the legal authority to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information,” or more (less?) precisely, that “There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility." Ok, you get back to us on that right away. It gets worse, both politically and logically. After the obligatory lip-service to the First Amendment, the AG said “But it can't be the case that that right trumps over the right that Americans would like to see, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity.” Note the circular reasoning? They need the power to prosecute criminal activity, so they need to define criminal activity as that which they want to prosecute.

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Robert Higgs - 5/22/2006

I was stunned by this report, too. It struck me first because of the link being made to authority initially granted the government in the Espionage Act of 1917. (I have an ongoing interest, for reasons some of your will understand, in tracing the endless series of such legacies of emergency enactments.)But then I came to Alberto Gonzales's statement, “But it can't be the case that that [First Amendment] right trumps over the right that Americans would like to see, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity.” Amazing. Yes, of course the man is a shameless political whore, but you'd think that anybody pretending to serve as the nation's highest legal official would have enough professional pride to demonstrate at least a freshman-level appreciation of the relationship between the Constitution and ANY statute, even one that clearly applies to the matter in question, which it is far from clear is the case in the present matter.

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