Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Speaker in Syria

One of the sillier things to pop up in recent weeks is the accusation that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should resign, or even be indicted, for speaking to the Syria leadership last week. The law she is accused of break, the Logan Act, is one of the lamest statutes in the books.

The Logan Act makes it illegal for anyone "without authority" to have any interaction with a foreign country concerning matters of dispute between the United States and that country. It forbids any action "with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States." The law was passed in 1798, the same time as the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Sedition Act made it illegal to criticize the United States Government in any way. In over 200 years, no one has ever been convicted of voilating the Logan Act. The last, and only, indictment occurred in 1803.

By a strict interpretation of the law, I could be charged for writing a blog entry attacking the Bush Administration's policies toward Iran that can be read by an Iranian official. Any nonprofit organization that seeks to influnce a country to produce cheap versions of patented AIDS medicines has broken this law. Every business that deals with foreign countries has probably broken this law many times. Like the Sedition Act, it seeks to ban actions that most Americans would consider falling under the definition of Freedom of Speech.

Even if by some bizarre interpretation the law was somehow viable, as Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi has the authority of the United States. Even if by some even more bizarre interpretation, the Speaker of the House does not have the authority of the United States, then the Republican congressmen who followed her by only a few hours in meetings with Syrian officials are equally criminal. Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) met with Syria's President the day after Pelosi. Among the Republican law breakers were Joe Pitts (R-PA), Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Robert Aderholt (R-AL).

Calling the Pelosi in Syria story Much Ado About Nothing would be an insult to nothing.

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