ACLU: Grand-jury Subpoena "Chilling"

//www.commondreams.org/headlines06/1215-10.htm

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U.S. Subpoenas ACLU to Confiscate Document, ACLU Fights Back

The ACLU went to court this week to fight off a government subpoena demanding that we turn over to the FBI “any and all copies” of a December 2005 government document in our possession.

"The government's attempt to suppress information using the grand jury process is truly chilling and is unprecedented in law and in the ACLU's history," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "This subpoena serves no legitimate investigative purpose and tramples on fundamental First Amendment rights. We recognize this maneuver for what it is: a patent attempt to intimidate and impede the work of human rights advocates like the ACLU who seek to expose government wrongdoing."

The three-and-a-half page document, issued in December 2005, is marked "Secret" and apparently is classified. The ACLU received the document, unsolicited, on October 23, 2006.

While release of the document might be "mildly embarrassing" to the government, the ACLU's possession of it is legal and its release could in no way threaten national security. To the contrary, the designation of the generally unremarkable document as "Secret" "appears to be a striking, yet typical, example of overclassification."

"No official secrets act has yet been signed into law, and the grand jury's subpoena power cannot be used to create one," said ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro. "The most significant thing about this case is not the content of the document but the government's unprecedented effort to suppress it."

If the government can enforce a subpoena in this way, it could just as easily have subpoenaed the Pentagon Papers from The New York Times and The Washington Post. The effect of the subpoena is no different than a prior restraint and it is equally unconstitutional.

We recognize this maneuver for what it is, as I'm sure you do. It's a patent attempt to intimidate and impede the work of human rights advocates like the ACLU who seek to expose government wrongdoing.

Many of the most important news articles of the past year (such as those concerning NSA eavesdropping, rendition of foreign prisoners of our nation to other nations, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's views on the deteriorating situation in Iraq) have been based on classified documents leaked to reporters, which could not be prepared and published as they have been were the government allowed to use subpoenas to confiscate 'any and all' copies of classified documents it learns are in the hands of journalists and other public advocates and critics.

Although the subpoena refers to the Espionage Act, the ACLU has been told that it is not a target of the investigation. "The ACLU is not a target for investigation because we have done nothing wrong," said Romero. "It is the government that is in the wrong when it abuses its power and attempts to silence its critics."

Read the ACLU’s Motion to Quash online.
//action.aclu.org/site/R?i=bsTZFhINdKkQFnk5bnYQbw..

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Subpoena seen as a bid by U.S. administration to stop leaks

Federal prosecutors are trying to force the American Civil Liberties Union to turn over copies of a classified document it received from a source, using what legal experts called a new extension of the Bush administration's efforts to protect national-security secrets.

//www.iht.com/articles/2006/12/14/news/leak.php


From Information Clearing House



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