ACLU under Grand Jury subpoena to return classified Docs

Basically the ACLU has possession of a classified document the feds want it back… The Feds went to a grand jury to get all copies of the document returned. The Grand Jury agreed and now the ACLU is upset and is asking a federal judge to overturn the grand jury subpoena.

Here is the ACLU press release: (emphasis added is mine)  

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today announced that it has asked a federal judge to quash a grand jury subpoena demanding that it turn over to the FBI “any and all copies” of a December 2005 government document in its possession.

The ACLU called the subpoena, served on November 20 by the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York, a transparent attempt to intimidate government critics and suppress informed criticism and reporting. 

“The government’s attempt to suppress information using the grand jury process is truly chilling and is unprecedented in law and in the ACLU’s history,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “This subpoena serves no legitimate investigative purpose and tramples on fundamental First Amendment rights.  We recognize this maneuver for what it is: a patent attempt to intimidate and impede the work of human rights advocates like the ACLU who seek to expose government wrongdoing.”

The three-and-a-half page document, issued in December 2005, is marked “Secret” and apparently is classified.  The ACLU received the document, unsolicited, on October 23, 2006. 

In legal papers, the ACLU said that while release of the document might be “mildly embarrassing” to the government, the ACLU’s possession of it is legal and its release could in no way threaten national security.  To the contrary, the ACLU said, the designation of the generally unremarkable document as “Secret” “appears to be a striking, yet typical, example of overclassification.” 

First… a document marked “SECRET” is classified and if you do not have the necessary security clearance then you should not be reading it let alone have it in your possession.

The responsible action when they received this document “unsolicited” would have been to return the document to the appropriate agency, and also disclose how they came to be in possession of it.

Secondly the ACLU is not authorized nor should they ever be authorized to declassify doccuments, or make a determination of what level of classification a doccument deserves.

Finally when a document is classified as “SECRET” which is a relatively low level of classification the classifying agency will generally be the ones to declassify it as well. The ACLU’s portrayal of this as some high level government conspiracy is at best dishonest.

Hat Tip to Stop the ACLU 


  1. zach

    So you don’t like the ACLU, fine. One needen’t trust them or their motives to still support their ability to retain and publish an unsolicited classified document. The whole point is that the government’s classification is (probably) duplicitous and blatantly political. Let the public be the judge.

    Several commentators have already remarked upon this as a case of attempted prior restraint on free speech, which maybe you don’t have a problem with, but which is nevertheless dangerous to the health of the republic. the means of doing it via a grand jury is, i believe, unprecedented. just because you (i assume) see some vast left wing conspiracy in the media is no reason to encourage government secrecy for political reasons. if people had blindly trusted the government, as you seem to advoccate, back in 1776, there would not have been an American Revolution in the first place.

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