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April 5, 2005
G&M Shows Why Publication Ban Is A Farce

Jane Taber reports in this morning's edition of the Globe and Mail on a second interview I gave her yesterday, when I had a moment and my voice could handle it. It's meant to give Canadian readers some background on me personally, and Taber does a fine job of presenting that information. However, more importantly -- perhaps for American readers -- it explains one of the reasons I found the publication ban so ridiculous.

One of my commenters last night asked why Americans should be so offended by a publication ban, considering that grand jury testimony is often kept secret here. However, grand jury testimony is truly held in camera, meaning closed off to the public. As Taber reports, that's hardly the case with the Gomery Inquiry:

His contact could be anyone as the commission hearings are open to the public. Indeed, the Brault testimony is an open secret in political Ottawa. Ask any political staffer or MP and they seem to know some, if not all, of the details of the testimony. The television feed from the commission can be picked up in some Ottawa newsrooms, and other information is being passed through e-mails, transcripts and phone calls.

Political leaders are being kept abreast of the story, with the exception of Bloc Qubcois Leader Gilles Duceppe who asked his staff not to tell him anything for fear he will divulge information and run afoul of the ban.

Last week, the NDP dispatched their man, Pierre Ducasse, to the hearings when the publication ban was imposed. He reports the testimony back to the senior staff. Party leader Jack Layton, however, is briefed only on the "gist" of the information, his spokesman, Karl Blanger, says. Again, it is to ensure that he doesn't let details slip.

In other words, every politician has access to the testimony, and even most reporters can get the transcript or at least hear it as the witnesses reveal their secrets. The only people whom the publication ban affects are the Canadian voters who elected these people and whose money got siphoned off. It has no analogy to grand juries whatsoever.

Others have pointed out that Justice Gomery wanted to keep the information private to keep the testimony from souring a jury pool for Jean Brault, Chuck Guit, and Paul Coffin. This sells Canadian citizens short, ethically and intellectually, and unfortunately this attitude exists in courtrooms south of the border as well. Jury selection these days apparently means finding twelve people who never read newspapers, books, or watch the news on television, and then putting someone's life into their hands. It's rubbish. Jurors take the job seriously enough that they can determine the validity of the evidence presented in court -- as opposed to the often-inaccurate information presented in the media -- and render a decision based on meeting a threshold based on reasonable doubt. When lawyers empanel the twelve most ignorant people they can find, we wind up with juries like the OJ Simpson jury: people who get manipulated by lawyers with sing-song slogans ... which is probably exactly what the lawyers on both sides wanted in the first place.

In order for a citizenry to remain at liberty, they have to know what their government is doing, and the press needs to report it without fear of government reprisal. The notion that Brault's rights had to be protected over the rights of all Canadian citizens is not only ludicrous but a false choice at its heart.

UPDATE and BUMP: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for all his links and supportive commentary at Instapundit. I just want to remind everyone to be a bit patient with load times today, due to the heavy interest in this material. If you want to read through all of my Adscam posts, click on this category link.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 5, 2005 7:38 AM

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