When is a letter to the editor sedition? Laura Berg, a V.A. nurse, wrote a letter to her local newspaper, The Albuquerque Alibi. She criticized the Bush administrations handling of the Katrina disaster. She called for Bush, Cheney, Brown and Rice to be tried for criminal neglect. She asked Americans to “act forcibly to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit.” Her letter was sent through V.A. channels to the FBI. The chief of Human Resources Management Service at the V.A., Mel Hooker said, “The agency is bound by law to investigate and pursue any act, which potentially represents sedition.” Black’s Law Dictionary defines Seditious Libel as “a communication written with the intent to incite the people to change the government otherwise than by lawful means, or to advocate the overthrow of the government by force or violence.” Apparently, Ms. Berg’s use of the adjective “forcibly” gets her into trouble.
However, the advocating of removing the current administration is not the same as overthrowing the government of the United States. I see nothing in Ms. Berg’s letter that is advocating the use of unlawful means. I suppose an administration that believes it is above the law might assume that when a citizen wants to forcibly remove them from power, the only option would be by unlawful means. That Ms. Berg wants to try the administration for criminal neglect shows she still has faith in the rule of law.
While the rule of law may fail at lower levels, innocent people do go to jail, lawsuits are decided unfairly, civil rights are not enforced: at the highest levels Americans still believe the rule of law will work. If Congress were to impeach and remove the President from power, we do expect that he would step down. We do not believe we would have to resort to unlawful or violent means to remove the President from power.
The very fact that Ms. Berg believed that writing a letter to her local paper could make a difference, shows she believes in the principles this country was founded upon, including freedom of speech. It will be a sad day if Americans see the rule of law so eroded that they no longer believe that they can forcibly remove a president from office by legal means; that they must resort to a violent overthrow of the government. Lets hope that day never comes.