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SNOWDEN COULD USE A TRIAL TO SHOWCASE SPY CLAIMS

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 09:37 Published in National News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Should Edward Snowden ever return to the U.S., he would face criminal charges for leaking information about National Security Agency surveillance programs. But legal experts say a trial could expose more classified information as his lawyers try to build a case in an open court that the operations he exposed were illegal.

A jury trial could be awkward for the Obama administration if the jurors believe Snowden is a whistle-blower who exposed government overreach. Snowden surely would try to turn the tables on the government, arguing that its right to keep information secret does not outweigh his constitutional right to speak out.

"He would no doubt bring First Amendment defenses to what he did, emphasizing the public interest in his disclosures and the democratic values that he served," said David Pozen, a Columbia Law School professor and a former legal adviser at the State Department. "There's been no case quite like it."

Administration officials say the possibility of a public spectacle wherein Snowden tries to reveal even more classified information to make his case has not lessened the Justice Department's intent to prosecute him, and Attorney General Eric Holder has not warmed to calls for clemency for the former NSA systems analyst.

Department spokesman Andrew Ames last week indicated there was no change in the department's intent to prosecute, and that point was reinforced by National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

"There's been no change in our position: Mr. Snowden is accused of leaking classified information and faces felony charges here in the United States," Hayden said. "He should be returned to the U.S. as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process and protections."

A former NSA general counsel, Stewart Baker, drawing from conversations with his former associates after New York Times and Guardian editorials called for clemency, said the issue "has been more of a media idea than something that is being seriously debated inside the government."

Both newspapers, along with The Washington Post, have received and reported on some of the documents Snowden took.

"I haven't talked to anyone in government who considers this a possibility," Baker said.

Officials have called Snowden's leaks the single largest theft of secrets in U.S. history.

The Justice Department breaks those alleged misdeeds into three charges filed in federal court in Virginia: theft of government property; under the Espionage Act, the unauthorized communication of national defense information; and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.

A November Washington Post/ABC News poll found 52 percent of Americans supported charging Snowden with a crime, while 38 percent opposed it.

Escaping conviction would be difficult.

Snowden has admitted taking and distributing the documents, explained Jason Weinstein, a former deputy assistant attorney general. The documents were first published in the Guardian and the Post in June, based on some of the thousands of documents Snowden handed over to Barton Gellman of the Post, Brazil-based American journalist Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, a U.S. filmmaker.

It would be tough, too, to make a legal argument that Snowden was acting as a whistle-blower, exposing criminal wrongdoing by the government.

"To the legal argument that the programs were illegal, the government's answer would be that the programs were legally authorized," Weinstein said.

"Your personal judgment as to whether the government is doing something illegal is not an element of the crime. You disclosed something you did not have permission to disclose."

No court has allowed a leaker of classified information to escape punishment on those grounds, Pozen wrote in a Lawfare blog post on the subject.

The first person convicted of espionage for furnishing classified data to a journalist was Samuel Loring Morison, who was employed at the Naval Intelligence Support Center in Suitland, Md., from 1974 to 1984. He was convicted of spying for leaking intelligence photographs in 1984 to Jane's Defence Weekly, a British military magazine. Morison was sentenced to two years in jail, and later was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.

The Obama administration has pursued leakers aggressively, and Snowden's breach was far more sweeping than Morison's.

Snowden's defense strategy could rest on "graymail," said national security lawyer Mark Zaid, in which the defense threatens to reveal classified information in the trial if the prosecution insists on pursuing the case.

Zaid, who has defended clients in similar cases, said that could force government lawyers to argue to close much of the hearings, only feeding Snowden's argument that the government is trying to hide misdeeds from the public behind a cloak of secrecy.

Snowden's legal representative, Ben Wizner at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the government likely would not ever let the jury hear his client's arguments for releasing the information on moral grounds.

"The Justice Department has successfully barred defendants in leaks prosecutions from mounting any kind of public interest defense by using the Espionage Act," Wizner said. He said all the government would have to prove is that Snowden took national defense information and gave it to someone who wasn't allowed to receive it.

"The government doesn't have to prove that the disclosures were harmful to the country. The defendant can't defend himself on basis that documents shouldn't have been classified ... and lower courts have upheld that," Wizner said. "That's why Edward Snowden is not taking his chances in a federal court. He wouldn't be able to explain himself."

Snowden is living under temporary asylum in Russia, which has no extradition treaty with the United States. If he decided to stay there or move to another country also without an extradition treaty with the U.S., he conceivably could live out his life without prosecution.

SEX ABUSE FILES ON 30 CHICAGO PRIESTS GOING PUBLIC

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 09:35 Published in National News

CHICAGO (AP) — Thousands of pages of documents showing how the Archdiocese of Chicago handled the sexual abuse of children by priests will be made public Tuesday, providing the broadest look yet into the details of what the archdiocese knew and did — or didn't do — about the scandal.

The archdiocese, one of the largest and most influential in the U.S., handed over last week more than 6,000 pages of documents to victims' attorneys, who said they will show the archdiocese concealed abuse for decades, including moving priests to new parishes where they molested again.

The disclosures involving 30 priests were made as part of legal settlements with abuse victims, and are similar to disclosures made in other dioceses in the U.S. in recent years that showed how the Roman Catholic Church shielded priests and failed for many years to report child sex abuse to authorities.

Chicago officials said most of the abuse occurred before 1988 and none after 1996.

Debra Brian, a 24-year-old Catholic from Chicago, had not yet seen or heard what was included in the documents, but said Sunday that the church is doing the right thing by acknowledging what occurred.

"Hopefully it will help people come forward," said Brian.

Cardinal Francis George, who has led the archdiocese since 1997, released a letter to parishioners on Jan. 12 in which he apologized for the abuse and said releasing the records "raises transparency to a new level." He also stressed that much of the abuse occurred decades ago, before he became archbishop. He said all of the incidents eventually were reported to civil authorities and resulted in settlements with victims.

"I apologize to all those who have been harmed by these crimes and this scandal, the victims themselves, most certainly, but also rank and file Catholics who have been shamed by the actions of some priests and bishops," George wrote.

The archdiocese has paid millions of dollars to settle sexual abuse claims, including those against Father Daniel McCormack, who was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty in 2007 to abusing five children while he was parish priest at St. Agatha Catholic Church and a teacher at a Catholic school. The next year, the archdiocese agreed to pay $12.6 million to 16 victims of sexual abuse by priests, including McCormack.

Files on McCormack will not be among those released; they have been sealed by a judge because of pending court cases, said Chicago attorney Marc Pearlman, who has represented about 200 victims of clergy abuse in the Chicago area. Pearlman said he and St. Paul, Minn., attorney Jeff Anderson will re-release the McCormack documents that they have.

Many of the accused priests are dead, and the documents will include only 30 of 65 priests for whom the archdiocese says it has credible allegations of abuse.

Peter Isely, Midwest director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said it's important for all Chicago-area Catholics to read the documents.

"This is about a part of their story as Chicago Catholics that ... has been systematically hidden," Isely said.

___

Associated Press Writer Sara Burnett contributed to this report.

NJ GOV. CHRISTIE CANCELS PARTY BECAUSE OF WEATHER

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 09:34 Published in National News

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie, who starts a second term with multiple investigations into his administration's tactics underway, will accentuate bipartisanship and diversity in his inaugural speech Tuesday.

"We have to be willing to play outside the red and blue boxes," Christie said in prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press. "We have to be willing to reach out to others who look or speak differently than us."

Christie is also expected to return to a favorite theme: Washington gridlock.

"We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, D.C.," he said in the prepared remarks. "The attitude that puts political wins ahead of policy agreements."

The celebrations to mark the start of Christie's second term could be tempered by investigations into traffic tie-ups that appear to have been ordered by his staff for political retribution and an allegation that his administration linked Superstorm Sandy aid to approval for a real estate project.

The 55th governor of New Jersey had to modify the schedule of inaugural events because a severe winter storm threatens to dump up to a foot of snow on the region Tuesday.

His day started with a service at Newark's New Hope Baptist Church before a swearing in and address in Trenton.

But organizers canceled an evening party on Ellis Island, a symbolic spot synonymous with the promise of the United States, because there was fear snow would make travel dangerous. The island where some 12 million immigrants first entered the U.S. is divided between New Jersey and New York, but his party was supposed to be held in a hall on the New York side.

Food prepared for the party will instead be donated to food pantries in the Jersey City area.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who was drawn into the Sandy aid controversy surrounding Christie last weekend, is also set to be sworn in for her second term.

Christie won re-election in November by a 22-point margin over state Sen. Barbara Buono, a Democrat.

The Republican governor built a national following as a blunt-talking and often funny politician who strived to show that he could find common ground with Democrats on some key issues, including overhauling the state's public-worker pension program and making it easier to fire teachers who are found to be underperforming.

Christie became a fixture in speculation about who would seek the 2016 presidential nomination with his leadership after Superstorm Sandy slammed into his state in October 2012.

He worked with President Barack Obama and took on Republican members of Congress who were reluctant to approve aid for storm victims, receiving high marks from his constituents and plentiful national attention.

But his reputation has been battered somewhat since revelations this month that a staffer ordered two of three approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge from the town of Fort Lee shut down for four days in September apparently as political retribution against the mayor there, perhaps for not endorsing Christie for re-election.

The U.S. attorney's office and two state legislative committees are now investigating.

Christie has apologized, denied any involvement with or knowledge of the plot and fired a deputy chief of staff at the center of the controversy. But questions have continued.

Christie's administration also faces an allegation from the Democratic mayor of Hoboken that it tied the delivery of Superstorm Sandy aid to the low-lying city of 50,000 across from Manhattan to support for a prime real estate project.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer said she was told by Guadagno that the ultimatum came directly from Christie. Guadagno strongly denied those claims Monday and described them as "false" and "illogical."

"Any suggestion that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false," she said.

Also Monday, nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis said Christie dropped a plan to appoint him the state's first physical fitness ambassador when he launched a political campaign against a Christie friend. Christie's administration hasn't returned an email seeking comment.

In his re-election campaign, Christie did not make big new promises but said he would continue to work on recovery from Sandy, seek tax cuts and push for other previous priorities with which the Democrat-controlled Legislature has not been willing to go along.

Christie has not ruled out a 2016 presidential run.

But last week in an event with storm victims in Manahawkin, he emphasized his New Jersey roots and the task before him as governor.

"Come next Tuesday, I've only got about 1,400 days to go as governor. We've got plenty of time to get this job done," he said. "You asked me and I accepted the task of leading this state for eight years, not four years."

The $500 tickets to the inaugural celebration and other contributions will be used to help support three charities: Save Ellis Island, The New Hope Baptist Church and New Jersey Heroes, which was founded by first lady Mary Pat Christie.

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