Tuesday, July 10, 2007
One of the criticisms of the Supreme Court's decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos (U.S. 2006), which held that public employee have no First Amendment protections when speaking pursuant to their official duties, is that it seems to give public employees the incentive to air their dirty laundry outside of work so they can get the protection of being a citizen.
Case in point: this letter from current Department of Justice (DOJ) senior attorney John Koppel to the Denver Post. In the letter, Koppel lashes out against the politicization of the DOJ by the Bush Administration. For instance, Koppel writes:
As a longtime attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can honestly say that I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time.
The public record now plainly demonstrates that both the DOJ and the government as a whole have been thoroughly politicized in a manner that is inappropriate, unethical and indeed unlawful. The unconscionable commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence, the misuse of warrantless investigative powers under the Patriot Act and the deplorable treatment of U.S. attorneys all point to an unmistakable pattern of abuse.
In the course of its tenure since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has turned the entire government (and the DOJ in particular) into a veritable Augean stable on issues such as civil rights, civil liberties, international law and basic human rights, as well as criminal prosecution and federal employment and contracting practices.
Recognizing that his words may not win friends in the Administration, Koppel also writes:
I realize that this constitutionally protected statement subjects me to a substantial risk of unlawful reprisal from extremely ruthless people who have repeatedly taken such action in the past. But I am confident that I am speaking on behalf of countless thousands of honorable public servants, at Justice and elsewhere, who take their responsibilities seriously and share these views. And some things must be said, whatever the risk.
I have to say that I have never seen speech on a matter of public concern which in so self-aware a manner recognizes the current limits of First Amendment protection for public employees.
It will be interesting to see if the DOJ takes action against Koppel. If so, Koppel, as a federal employee and as a result of Bush v. Lucas (U.S. 1983), will have to bring any First Amendment claim that he has to the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB), another politicized agency of the Bush Administration.
Oh, the irony!