“That’s your justice system, and mine: a consequence of our culture of servility towards to police and prosecutors.”
—Former prosecutor, current lawyer, and epic blogger Ken White, summing up the outrageous misconduct of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in its attempt to subpoena Reason’s commenter’s identities for potential prosecution, specifically the use of a gag order to prevent the publication from communicating.
Ken White has been following this story, which is a frightening example of how power can be, and is perverted in a supposed democracy that respects a free press. The short version (you can read the posts about this here and here, which link to Ken’s more intense and thorough commentary) is that libertarian publication Reason found itself ordered to reveal the identities of some mean commenters on its website who made obviously hyperbolic and facetious “threats” about a judge, including suggesting that she be Steve Buscemied…
Such harassment is classic government infringement of free speech, but an assistant U.S. attorney hit Reason with a judicial order preventing the publication from writing about the case or the issues involved, even though none of the factors that could justify such a gag order were present. Not only that, but the judge granting the order works for the judge who was “threatened.”
In the current post, Ken explains why due process was essentially ignored by the judge in granting the gag order:
“There are no specific facts indicating the nature of the investigation, the nature of the conduct investigated, the nature of the targets of the investigation, the circumstances requiring secrecy, or any particular facts explaining why the statutory factors apply to this case. This isn’t judicial review; it’s not any type of check on government power. This is a federal prosecutor saying “gag these people because I want you to, judge — you can trust me, I’m a prosecutor” and the judge saying “of course. For how long?”…if it’s this easy to get a gag order, prosecutors can get one automatically in any case involving electronic data without any proof.”
Meanwhile, the news media isn’t covering this frightening story at all. You would think it would be in their interest to do so. Of course, then they might have to stop pretending that the Obama Administration did not intentionally abuse the power of the IRS and Justice to harass conservative non-profits, and that the scandal is not just a matter of “rogue employees,” but a Nixon-level attempt to rig the political process.
Reason has posted an interview with Ken about the whole episode.