Thursday, February 17, 2005

No, seriously. Be very afraid....

The blogosphere is ringing with the story of Jeff Gannon. It should be ringing with the story of Lynne Stewart. One is a "gotcha" where political opponents of George W. Bush finally get back a bit of their own, or think they do. The other is a "gotcha" where the Administration of George W. Bush asks: "And how many lawyers does the blogosphere have?"

...the jury found that Ms. Stewart frequently made gibberish comments in English to distract prison officials who were trying to record the conversation between the sheikh and his interpreter, and that she "smuggled" messages from her jailed client to his followers.

But if the federal government had followed the law, Ms. Stewart would never have been required to agree to these rules to begin with. Just after 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft gave himself the power to bypass the lawyer-client privilege, which every court in the United States has upheld, and eavesdrop on conversations between prisoners and their lawyers if he had reason to believe they were being used to "further facilitate acts of violence or terrorism." The regulation became effective immediately.

In the good old days, only Congress could write federal criminal laws. After 9/11, however, the attorney general was allowed to do so. Where in the Constitution does it allow that?

. . . .

The Stewart conviction is a travesty. She faces up to 30 years in prison for speaking gibberish to her client and the truth to the press. It is devastating for lawyers and for any American who may ever need a lawyer. Shouldn't the Justice Department be defending our constitutional freedoms rather than assaulting them?

I should note the author of this excellent and succinct statement on the Stewart case is "a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is an analyst for Fox News and the author of Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws." Not exactly a regular commentator on Pacifica Radio, in other words.

Bush to blogosphere: you got Jeff Gannon. We've got your lawyers.

Guess who should be staying up nights worrying?

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