Monthly Archives: February 2014

Mr. First Amendment | Weekly Standard

What are we to make of Floyd Abrams?

For more than five decades he has been toiling in the vineyards of the First Amendment, as a practicing attorney, a professor at the law schools of Columbia and Yale, and an apostle of free speech and a free press, writing and lecturing extensively in defense of his vision of both. He has appeared as counsel in numerous landmark cases in virtually every area of First Amendment law, from government secrecy to libel to campaign finance regulation. He holds the unique distinction of being the only lawyer in America known to have appeared before the Supreme Court wearing only one sock—and in the Pentagon Papers case, no less. Most of all, he is someone who has thought long and hard about 14 words—“Congress shall make no law .  .  . abridging the freedom of speech or of the press”—that are not only central to our national life, but are the continuing source of fierce controversy and litigation.

Abrams has just published Friend of the Court, a collection of his writings and speeches on an array of critical issues; it follows Speaking Freely (2005), in which he ranged over some of the key cases of his career, including the tale of the missing sock. Abrams is a staunch, though frequently unorthodox, liberal, with a life project of protecting and expanding the scope of legal expression under American law. For anyone—conservatives very much included—interested in the continuing controversies surrounding the First Amendment, his writings are an excellent place to start.

Floyd Abrams in his office (1986)

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In Iran We Trust | Weekly Standard

President Obama is rushing to implement the six-month interim agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran that went into effect last week. Together with five other world powers, he is now working to negotiate a long-term agreement aimed at keeping Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. He regards his opening to Iran as a signature achievement of his presidency and has proudly declared that diplomacy opened a path to “a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.”

Syria’s camouflaged reactor

SYRIA’S CAMOUFLAGED REACTOR

If we assume that negotiations do not collapse and some sort of long-term accord is struck, there will still be thorny questions. A preeminent one concerns Iranian compliance. How much confidence can we have that the ayatollahs will not press ahead with their nuclear program in clandestine facilities, as they have done in the past? And if they do press ahead, how much confidence can we have that our intelligence agencies will catch them?

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Snowden’s Hypocrisy on Russia | Washington Post

Edward Snowden’s removal of thousands, perhaps millions, of highly classified documents from the National Security Agency and his decision to turn them over to journalists for publication ignited a fierce debate about who and what he is. On one side are those who hail Snowden as a whistleblower, someone who, as the New York Times editorialized, “has done his country a great service.” Others regard him as a criminal or traitor. Neither this debate nor the public discussion of government secrecy and surveillance policies that Snowden’s actions sparked will be resolved anytime soon.

Snowden, meanwhile, says that his “mission’s already accomplished,” that he has given Americans a “say in how they are governed” and that he has succeeded in exposing the workings of what he has called the unbridled “surveillance state.” Continue reading

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