Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's indictments are legally questionable

By Beryl Wajsman on February 17, 2018

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's indictments are legally questionable, intellectually dishonest and threaten an open internet and free expression...

Let the piling on begin but read my comments past the headline please. I am anything but a Trump fan. I find him offensive on so many levels not the least of which are his affronts to aesthetic sensibilities, intellectual rigour and the civil discourse demanded of all public officials but particularly of a President. But I am equally offended by the hypocrisy of these indictments which would threaten the very standards and liberties we all feel are jeopardized in the conduct of this administration. And they threaten them for the very reasons that the President is criticized for. Exploiting justice, reason and truth for political gain.

My objection to Mueller's indictments is that he used an obscure,rarely used and ill-defined US law -which the previous administration itself breached the spirit of - to indict individuals for acts and opinions that by all western legal traditions fall into the category of freedom of expression and could be used against any opinion placed on the internet - even by Canadians - if those opinions concern American elections.

In 2013, the United States made it illegal for "foreign entities" to be involved in US elections. Entities are defined as chartered organizations and corporations. Mueller indicted three entities and thirteen individuals. The three entities were registered in Russia in 2014. The largest of them is called the Internet Research Agency. The individuals indicted either worked for those entities or used computers belonging to those entities. And here is the problem.

Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein made it clear yesterday that, "there is no evidence that the actions of the entities and individuals in any way influenced the outcome of the election nor is there any connection to anyone in the administration." So what were the actions that were indictable? These individuals expressed opinions on social media - sometimes under false names - that according to Mueller constituted "informational warfare" against the United States because the posts were filled with false information and were meant to deceive voters. And here lays the rub.

Progressives have been rightly fighting for a decade against right wing attempts to censor social media content. We all believe in an open internet. Suddenly Mueller, the new darling of progressives who criticized him regularly during his dozen years as FBI director, has created a new crime of "informational warfare."

If we are to censor social media based on accuracy, we would have to take down three quarters of everything on it. it we were to criminalize using false names, the same would have to happen. Social media is a free battleground of ideas. Yes, each of us must be responsible, educated and courageous enough to separate the wheat from the chaff and attack the haters and liars. That's the responsibility that comes with freedom. One cannot be a free society if government agents - with all the good intentions in the world - set themselves up as censors and subjective judges of what is true or false and what opinions may sway or influence voters. That's the point of open media. It comes with risks. But better that than police state oversight.

Mueller's new standard, if it stands the test of the courts, would mean that if I wrote an opinion on a future US election in order to precisely commit "informational warfare" against an American candidate I did not like - even if that information was true - and in so doing I used a computer of an "entity" - a corporation or chartered organization - I could be indicted on the same basis. And free expression be damned if it comes from outside US borders. Globalization of money, sure. Globalization of ideas, no. Is that a standard we should accept without voicing our opposition? I think not.

Let me close by reminding you my friends, that the last American administration - as well as the Democratic National Committee - approved the hiring by major Democratic contributors of New York PR firm Howard Rubinstein & Associates - famous for the "I love New York" campaign - to send a team to Israel to work for the opposition against the re-election of Prime Minister Netanyahu. But Israel ha s no laws against "interference by foreign entities." One could gag at this double standard. Mueller's indictments are a threat to the very principles we seek to protect. This is not an event to lionize. It is one to criticize.


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