Now THAT'S Chutzpah…

The Memory Hole has an interesting article showing that the Justice Department has censored a Supreme Court decision by redacting a quote that discusses the abuse of power by the Government. Talk about self-referential…

bq.. The Justice Department tipped its hand in its ongoing legal war with the ACLU over the Patriot Act. Because the matter is so sensitive, the Justice Dept is allowed to black out those passages in the ACLU’s court filings that it feels should not be publicly released.

Ostensibly, they would use their powers of censorship only to remove material that truly could jeopardize US operations. But in reality, what did they do? They blacked out a quotation from a Supreme Court decision:

_”The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect ‘domestic security.’ Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent.”_

The mind reels at such a blatant abuse of power (and at the sheer chutzpah of using national security as an excuse to censor a quotation about using national security as an excuse to stifle dissent).

It’s hard to imagine a more public, open document than a decision written by the Supreme Court. It is incontestably public property: widely reprinted online and on paper; poured over by generations of judges, attorneys, prosecutors, and law students; quoted for centuries to come in court cases and political essays.

Yet the Justice Department had the incomprehensible arrogance and gall to strip this quotation from a court document, as if it represented a grave threat to the republic. Luckily, the court slapped down this redaction and several others. If it hadn’t, we would’ve been left with the impression that this was a legitimate redaction, that whatever was underneath the thick black ink was something so incredibly sensitive and damaging that it must be kept from our eyes.

Now we know the truth. Think about this the next time you see a black mark on a public document.

About Kevin

Kevin Jarnot is a technologist who lives just South of Boston, MA. He is currently employed as Chief Technology Officer at DebtX, a financial services technology company based in Boston.
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