Monday, May 14, 2007

The First Amendment, still the best after 216 years

via C&L, The Guardian attempts to report on the current state of the case against David Keogh and Leo O'Connor, recently convicted of violating Britain's Official Secrets Act.

I say attempts to report, because the absurdity of an Official Secrets Act in a free society leads to pretzel twisting logic like the court's ruling that journalists covering the trial cannot actually mention what it's all about.
We cannot report allegations about what the document contains even though they have been reported time and time again ... by the media, including British newspapers.

That's not strictly true. The judge said we can repeat those allegations but only if they appear on a different page of a newspaper than any reference to the trial or the document which was at the centre of it. We can also report, since it was said in open court, that the Guardian's counsel, Anthony Hudson, argued that it would be inappropriate to restrain publication of the allegation already in the public domain claiming that President Bush suggested that the Arabic TV station al-Jazeera should be bombed.
The background on the story is that Keogh and O'Connor disclosed the minutes of a meeting between Tony Blair and George Bush. Bush apparently speculated about bombing Al Jazeera offices and Blair advised against it. (Al Jazeera has occasionally been hit by U.S. fire)

Europeans and people in most other nations do not have the same freedom of speech we take for granted in the United States, much to the chagrin of the "limits to freedom" crowd.

Of course, in most cases, the real purpose of state secrets is to keep powerful people safe from the rabble:
He, and the government as a whole, seemed particularly concerned about the need to protect Bush from embarrassment, (the prosecution conceded that no "actual damage" had been caused by the leak) and to show the White House that Whitehall is determined to try and keep secrets even though Washington cannot.

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