The gag order

Published: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 at 11:16 p.m.
The United States Supreme Court to 20 million public employees: Just shut up and do your jobs.
That's the essence of the chilling message the court handed down on Tuesday, when it decided that public employees have no First Amendment rights to blow the whistle when they spot corruption, misconduct or incompetence in government. By a 5-4 margin, the court ruled that public employees may not sue the government if they think they are being punished for whistle blowing.
"We reject . . . the notion that the First Amendment shields from discipline the expressions employees make pursuant to their professional duties," wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, for the majority.
Translation: Just shut up and do your jobs.
It is no surprise that the Bush administration sided in this case with Los Angeles County, which was being sued by a prosecutor who claimed he had been demoted for writing a memo that questioned whether a deputy had lied in a search warrant affidavit. This administration is all about imposing secrecy on government's inner workings and stifling dissent in the ranks. The court just handed government a blunt instrument to use on employees who may be tempted to "go public" about official misconduct or incompetence.
"It's a very frightening signal of dark times ahead," Tom Devine, director of the Government Accountability Project told The Associated Press after the ruling was handed down.
Isn't government already powerful enough? Must the U.S. Supreme Court grant it even more authority to stifle dissent and discourage public disclosure? This is a sad day for public accountability in America.

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