Bloggers are aghast at both the bungled Moussaoui sentencing trial and a law that would prohibit disclosures about possibly unconstitutional antiterror measures. They also think Isaac Hayes is a hypocrite for quitting South Park.
Loose noose for Mouss: Judge Leonie Brinkema has ruled that the sentencing trial of al-Qaida operative Zacarias Moussaoui can proceed, but without the testimony of witnesses who were "coached" by TSA lawyer Carla J. Martin. The development hobbles the prosecution's capital-punishment rationale that the defendant's actions led indirectly to deaths on 9/11. Bloggers can hardly believe Martin's ineptness and how it may benefit a notorious terrorist.
At Evan Schaeffer's Underground, the Midwestern trial lawyer offers some valuable pro bono counsel of his own, remarking on Martin's use of e-mail to violate the ban on unduly influencing witnesses: "If you were going to intentionally violate the judge's order in the Moussaoui trial, wouldn't you meet with the upcoming witnesses in, say, a dark parking garage or at least use the telephone? That's why I think Martin's conduct seems so mysteriously boneheaded: a government lawyer so convinced she's right in a death-penalty-terrorism case that she's willing to break the rules, but so incompetent she can't figure out how to do it right."
Lefty Russo-American Boris Epstein, at Building a Pyramid, applauds Brinkema's good sense and pragmatism: "I must say that every time I hear reports from that trial I am gaining more and more respect for Judge Brinkema. This ruling of her sounds like quite a reasonable compromise—the government is given yet one more chance to proceed though given their previous blunders I doubt they deserve it." Like-minded RJ McCafferty argues at Scoplaw that the rule against allowing federal witnesses access to other witness testimony is not some hollow technicality: "In this case, when you have an attorney ... sending witnesses written testimony that they can study and advising witnesses ... to make the government's case more coherent and stronger, then I think there's a very very very thing line between that and just fabricating evidence ..."
But perhaps no one feels the government's pain more than righty Craig H at Red Satellites: "I just wish Ms. Martin would've represented my ex-wife ... 10 years ago."
Read more about Martin's major juridical boo-boo.
Quiet! Law-breaking in progress: The president's authorization to allow domestic warrantless wiretapping is about to get a boost from Congress. A bill, authored by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, would make "disclos[ing] information identifying or describing" such surveillance programs a crime. Does this include reporters who feel compelled to write about it? Not quite, says DeWine, although most bloggers have little faith in the negotiability of a federal gag order on a policy they already abhor.
Robert at Strange Brouhaha might sound as if he were advancing his own modest proposal, were it not for the fact that the White House already sees it as a bang-up idea: "Your illegal domestic spying program is under fire from all sides. It's illegal and immoral. It 'fixes' a problem which wasn't broken in the first place; all it does is prop up your 'because I said so' theory of government. ... So what do you do? ... You stop the program, right? ... Silly. Of course not. Instead, you make it illegal to talk about it. There, problem solved."
Josh Stock at Icarus Fallen is more even-handed, if still not quite happy about the prospect of enforced radio silence on his government's own long-wave invigilation: "The new language is much stronger than the old language, which places much of the burden on government officials to keep the secrets. With the new language in place, it might be possible to prosecute anyone who receives classified information and passes it on again, like reporters and media folk. And the penalties are stiffer too—up to 15 years in jail."
Yet liberal Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer who's worked on First Amendment cases, can't understand why those who have the most to lose by this legislation are mute about it: "One no longer is surprised when the media ignores or fails to understand severe crises in our government, but one would expect that if they take a stand against anything, it would be crusades of this sort to intimidate and silence the adversarial press," he writes at Unclaimed Territory. "So far, at least, their silence is deafening."
Read more about the DeWine legislation and its discontents.
Screw you guys, I'm going home: Isaac Hayes, the voice of "Chef" on South Park, has decided that after years of happily participating in the depiction of talking Christmas feces and Saddam Hussein's sodomizing of Satan, the rendering of Scientology as a sinister cult was just one step too far. He's given the shaft to the animated series that revived his career.
Ryan W. McMaken at the vaguely anarcho-libertarian blog Lew Rockwell.com writes of Hayes' rationalization that "bigotry" in general was what de-inked his contract: "Obviously, Hayes is free to disassociate from any show he doesn't like, but the transparency if his motivations is really embarassing for the rest of us, and his raising the spectre of 'civil rights' is in particularly bad taste."
Noting that Comedy Central originally wouldn't let the show's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone "do" the baritone voice of an older black man themselves, legal eagle Ann Althouse thinks things would be much different now: "Does Chef have to go? I don't think he's been an important character in recent years, but since Stone and Parker have been blithely doing so many voices, why not do his too?"
Read more about Hayes' defection.