Thursday, December 21, 2006

Government backs away from unconstitutional use of subpoena power

Balkin in brief:
Yesterday [ed. Monday the 18th] the government backed away from its attempt to use the subpoena power as a prior restraint to force the ACLU to hand over all copies of a secret document. Not only that, the government declassified the document itself. Here is the judge's order noting the government's change of mind, and here (gasp!) is the secret document whose disclosure the government insisted was so important that it had to abuse the investigative powers of the grand jury.

. . .

This episode aptly demonstrates why claims that we must surrender our freedoms following 9/11 and the War on Terror must be taken with an enormous grain of salt. It's very easy for the government to make these claims, and, as this case shows, it is likely to make them when they are completely bogus. The reasons have to do less with the venality of specific individuals than with the nature of bureacracies, which are naturally allergic to oversight, and which usually seek to maxmize their authority and their lack of accountability.

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