May 222006

From CNN: Gonzales: U.S. could track reporters’ phone calls:

But he added that the First Amendment right of a free press should not be absolute when it comes to national security. If the government’s probe into the NSA leak turns up criminal activity, prosecutors have an “obligation to enforce the law.” 

“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,” Gonzales said on ABC’s “This Week.”

I must have missed a part of our constitution where it said that the federal government can overrule selected portions when pursuing criminal activity. Let’s double check the first amendment to see if there is an exception:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I don’t believe it can be called a “right” to have “the federal government go after criminal activity.” The beautiful nature of our constitution is that it limits the actions our government can take while still preserving our rights and protecting our society. If we start to selectively ignore parts of our constitution, we risk a descent into totalitarianism.

Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” I feel there is an important corollary: those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety will receive neither liberty nor safety.

 Posted by at 12:25 am

  2 Responses to ““You say you’ll change a constitution””

  1. The question is not whether the first amendment protects criminal activity; it doesn’t. You can’t kill someone because your religion tells you to, you can’t break into someone’s house just because you’re a reporter. The question is “Is it a crime to publish classified information?”

    And I think revealing state secrets is like murder, in that you can only do it once. It’s not murder if you stab someone’s corpse, because they’re already dead. Once a secret goes beyond those who are authorized to hear it, it’s not a secret. Only the first person with clearance who tells someone without clearance can be guilty. So once Jerry the CIA agent tells Lois Lane a secret, it’s not a secret any more, so Lois can tell whoever she wants. For instance, the 3 million readers of the Daily Planet.

    Now, if Lois was to buy Jerry’s phone, break into CIA headquarters, then she’d be guilty. But I don’t think that is the case with the current case.

  2. The New York Times has more coverage: Gonzales Says Prosecutions of Journalists Are Possible.

    I agree that the question is not if the first amendment protects criminal activity. My concern is that the made-up “right” of the “the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity” does not trump actual rights enumerated in the constitution.

    If we did consider catching criminals more important the protecting our constitution, what’s to stop Gonazles from ignoring the first through seventh amendments, and maybe eight and nine, too? Not to mention section one of the 14th amendment. After all, it would be easier to catch criminals without the rights assured in those amendments.

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