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March 29, 2006

Appeals Court Nails Bagdad Jim McDermott For Leaking Taped Call

No word yet as to whether he complied with FISA's 72-hour-warrant-application requirement:

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Rep. Jim McDermott violated federal law by turning over an illegally taped telephone call to reporters nearly a decade ago.

In a 2-1 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld a lower court ruling that McDermott violated the rights of Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who was heard on the 1996 call involving then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.

The court ordered McDermott to pay Boehner more than $700,000 for leaking the taped conversation. The figure includes $60,000 in damages and at least $600,000 in legal costs.

McDermott, D-Wash., has acknowledged leaking a tape of a 1996 cell phone call involving Gingrich to The New York Times and other news organizations.

The call included discussion by Gingrich and other House GOP leaders about a House ethics committee investigation of Gingrich. Boehner was a Gingrich lieutenant at the time and is now House majority leader.

A lawyer for McDermott had argued that his actions were allowed under the First Amendment, and said a ruling against him would have "a huge chilling effect" on reporters and newsmakers alike.

Lawyers for 18 news organizations β€” including ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post β€” filed a brief backing McDermott.

But Boehner's lawyers said McDermott's actions were clearly illegal.

By leaking the tape, McDermott "chilled the free speech of others," namely Boehner and Gingrich, said Boehner lawyer Michael Carvin.

In a written statement, McDermott said he respectfully disagrees with the majority ruling.

"My position rightly defends freedom of the press and free speech in America," he said. "The American people have a right to know when their government's leaders are plotting to deceive them, and that is exactly what was happening during a telephone call in 1996 involving Republican House leaders."

So, political leaders can have their calls illegally recorded and disseminated, because it's crucially important to know when "their government's leaders are plotting to deceive them."

Those calling Al Qaeda long-distance, however, are entitled to full privacy.


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posted by Ace at 11:02 AM

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