Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Judge objects to Bremer's "gag" order. 

From the Tennessean.com:, a Federal judge, visiting Iraq on behalf of the Justice Department to help re-start Iraq's judicial system, objects to a "gag" order from Bremer:

Federal appellate judge Gilbert S. Merritt of Nashville is in Iraq as one of 13 experts selected by the U.S. Justice Department to help rebuild Iraq's judicial system...

This is my last story from Baghdad. The so-called Coalition Provisional Authority, or CPA, acting through its head, L. Paul Bremer, issued a ''gag'' order two days ago that says:

''Speaking To The Media. To insure the effective co-ordination of the CPA's message, any plan for a member of the CPA to talk to the media should first be coordinated with the Directorate of Strategic Communication...''

I have been informed that this includes any article I may write, or verbal utterance I may speak, to any members of the press, including my hometown newspaper.

In my opinion, this is a clear violation of the First Amendment to our Constitution, which says that our government may not impose any law, regulation or directive ''abridging the freedom of speech.'' The First Amendment covers any attempt by our government to control the speech of a civilian citizen of the United States, with only a few exceptions.

There are many cases in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals — more than 2,000 — that hold that the Free Speech Clause covers state and federal officials and employees. Those cases secure to such employees the right to speak on matters of public concern broadly defined and to converse with the press and others without abridgment or control.