Justice Department not living up to name | VailDaily.com

Justice Department not living up to name

Alan Braunholtz

“Justice” has several definitions. My favorite: The upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards and law.

Unfortunately, our Justice Department seems to be deliberately forgetting the “just” part of justice, instead using the frightening power of the law to selectively enforce a political point of view.

It’s bad enough when our government governs from its own insular “realities,” ignoring any points of view, arguments and even facts that don’t fit in. An energy policy created without even lip service paid to the benefits of efficiency, conservation and renewables shows an arrogance and ignorance that will return to haunt us all.

Now it looks as if the Justice Department wants to prevent some dissenting points of view from even being heard.

Free speech takes many forms. The U.S. has a history of peaceful protests as a form of free speech. The marches and protests of Martin Luther King used civil disobedience as a powerful tool of expression. Traditionally, prosecutors acknowledged free speech as the basis of these non-violent actions and exercised restraint. Misdemeanor charges for obstruction and trespassing are the norm. Protests are simply part of the package of democracy.

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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Recent charges against Green Peace aim to muzzle criticism. In April 2002, two members of Green Peace boarded a ship loaded with mahogany. Green Peace believed these logs to be illegally harvested and imported. The activists unfurled a banner asking President Bush to act to help stop these imports, which would go a long way to protecting the Amazon rainforest.

They got arrested, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and all seemed normal. Now the Green Peace organization is being charged under an arcane 1872 law prohibiting sailor mongering or the luring of sailors by offering deals, usually liquor and women. Strange to see how Green Peace fits in there, but apparently it does according to the letter of the law. This law has only been used twice in its history, which could explain why it took the Justice Department one and a half years to find it.

Green Peace catches the eye and is a constant and brazen critic of the present government’s lack of an environmental policy. A successful prosecution would shut them up by removing their tax-exempt status and forcing them on probation to report all future actions to the government. It could also scare other organizations critical of government policy to back away.

Intimidation is a favorite tactic the world over to silence dissent. Remember those old nuns who symbolically hammered on a missile silo (designed to withstand a nuclear blast) to protest our policy of possible pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons. They caused $3,000 of damage to a fence and then got prosecuted as a threat to national security. Eventually found guilty of putting military personnel in harm’s way, they went to jail for two and a half years.

If you’re worried about national security, why not find the person who leaked the name of a covert CIA operative out of spite? Her husband had the temerity to point out the falsehood behind one of the weapons of mass destruction claims. Damn truth getting in the way again.

Think about that. A successful spy, all of her contacts, any front organization she used made useless and physically put at risk by someone in the White House out of spite. Unbelievable, and everyone is acting so nonchalantly about this unprecedented betrayal of a brave patriot with no one expecting to find the leaker who is dishonorably hiding behind the press.

Justice is supposed to be blind, but so far anti-abortion groups that encourage intimidation, if not outright threats, don’t incite the same legal response. Selective actions show an intolerance that is worrying

Should be used to it, though, the “moral majority” (actually neither) has a history of politics over morals. The talk shows are deafening me with their silence on Rush’s drug buying (using his employee as the at-risk purchaser), Bennet’s gambling lapses and Arnold’s movie star history. Now it’s all about learning and the growth of the man, etc.

I happen to believe that’s a good point of view. We’re all saints and sinners and everyone deserves the chance of redemption and forgiveness – just not only those with the same political views as you.

Same with free speech.

Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily.

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