Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bush Justice To Bloggers: Drop Dead

So who are the "opponents" who, per Kit Seelye, are opposed extending a federal reporter/source privilege to bloggers?

The Bush Department of Justice, that's who.

Chuck Rosenberg, a United States District Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee to express Bush Justice's "concerns" about the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2005" with respect to cases in which the Justice Department was a party. Here's what he said:

Fifth, the Department objects to the broad definition of "covered person" in section 5(2) that, inter alia, encompasses foreign media and foreign news agencies (including government-owned and -operated news agencies), some of which are hostile to the United States and some of which can, and have, acted in support of foreign terrorist organizations (a reporter of the Qatarian news network Al-Jazeera was recently convicted in Spain for acting as a financial courier for Al-Qaeda). The mere fact that such foreign media entities and their reporters may operate primarily abroad does not mean that they do so exclusively, or that their involvement in activity in the United States that may warrant the use of Federal compulsory process against them is a merely hypothetical prospect. Extending special privilege and legal protections to such entities in U.S. criminal and civil law enforcement proceedings, as this bill does, is entirely unwarranted and inconsistent with the Department's law enforcement mission and the war on terrorism.

Such an expansive definition of "covered person" could unintentionally offer a safe haven for criminals. As drafted, the definition invites criminals to cloak their activities under the guise of a "covered person," so as to avoid investigation by the Federal government. The overbroad definition of a "covered person" could be read to include any person or corporate entity whose employees or corporate subsidiaries publish a book, newspaper, or magazine; operate a radio or television broadcast station; or operate a news or wire service. Additionally, the definition arguably could include any person who sets up an Internet "blog" or any other activity to "disseminate information by print, broadcast, cable satellite[, etc.]," as set forth in the bill.

Chuckles doesn't explain, at least in his prepared remarks, why Bush Justice considers bloggers unworthy of the privilege. But his example of the reporter/courier is laughable. A reporter, like anyone else, has a constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. So a reporter's privilege wouldn't give any additional protection to a reporter committing a crime.

I wonder how many wingnut blowhards will criticize on the Administration on this.

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