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Response to Dark n Stormy Knight (Reply #99)

Thu Jun 10, 2021, 06:04 PM

114. ?

I like and respect Rachel Maddow. I can't remember my mentioning her here on DU -- and certainly not in the context of the current DoJ situation -- but since you have, let me clarify my view on her. She's definitely one of the very top journalist-reporters of this era. Highly intelligent lady with a great education. And she has put together the best team of researchers of anyone currently on any channel.

More, I have watched her DoJ segment that does play a role in the discussions about the speed that the department is moving in. It's a topic with value. Yet it would be curious if that translated into a robust support of every post on the discussion threads -- at least in my opinion, though I recognize that others think differently than do I.

Let's focus for a moment on one of what may be the most important issues that Rachel addressed -- the DoJ spying on journalists (among others). One need not have their copy of Dan Rather's 1977 book "The Camera Never Blinks" handy, but it would be useful. For the spying upon journalists is not a new problem. The issue of "leaks" to the press was the original source of motivation for the Huston Plan in the Nixon administration. Or, in more common terms, it led to "the Plumbers." Which, among other bad, bad things, led to the break-in at Rather's home.

The House and Senate did have significant investigations of the Nixon abuses of power, and the DoJ did prosecute a fair number of those who broke the law. Not all, but quite a few. A lot of good came out of the investigations into Nixon administration and intelligence agency practices. A part was the concept of the FISA court, which opened in 1978. Considering the percentages of warrent applications getting approved, one can make a strong case that the rules of the FISA court system need to be up-graded.

The chances of Congress passing improved law on this would seem rather stark at this point. The republican party currently is channeling the pathology of Donald Trump, despite the expressed concerns of a few party members. Now, the Attorney General can change the department's policy, which is a good but temporary solution, since the next republican AG is likely to be as crooked as William Barr.

So where, a rational person might ask, does that leave us? Let's think: there are three branches of the federal government. Two of them would have difficulty doing much to prevent a future administration of over-stepping their authority -- something that happens frequently, and always starts by the entering of gray areas. So what might help us identify the gray areas from the definitely criminal ones? Might we consider the possibility of the judicial system?

Most rational citizens in the United States recognize that there is a US Constitution, and that it includes the Bill of Rights. That Amendment 1 was designed to protect a free press, among other things. The spying on journalists, while repulsive, has at times been in one of those gray regions, creating situations where federal prosecutors do not have quite enough solid evidence to be 95% sure of a conviction. But an area known as Constitutional Law -- based in decisions by the US Supreme Court (lower federal courts also have a role to play).

A good reference book for those interested in, but not really familiar with previous federal court decisions, is "The Bill of Rights: Original Meaning and Current Understanding" (edited by Eugene W. Hickok, Jr.; University of Virginia Press; 1991). The second chapter provides an easy to understand explanation of major Amendment 1 cases. One of the good things about the book is that it uses court decisions that one may agree or disagree with, which offers the bonus of understanding how the issues involved are viewed and decided.

That's a great thing about the concept of a free press. A person need not be a university professor, nor a federal attorney, to read books such as the two I've mentioned. One can simply borrow a copy from a public library, and gain the benefits of reading. Maybe it's just me, but I think if one is upset enough to complain on a public forum about an issue, it should inspire one to know what they are talking about. I accept that others may disagree with me.

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