The Bush administration's selective prosecution of Greenpeace is an unprecedented threat to civil liberties in America.
Judge Jordan postponed ruling on Greenpeace's motion to dismiss
the indictment, but he warned the Justice Department that he might
grant the motion after the presentation of facts at trial. He
expressed doubts about the Justice Department's ability to prevail
against Greenpeace's claim that the criminal statute involved is
unfairly vague. "It is not a good sign," he wrote, "when the
government resorts to defining a phrase by repeating the phrase
Judge Jordan granted a jury as a matter of discretion, citing
the unusual nature of the prosecution. "This case," he wrote, "may
... signal a change in DOJ [Justice Department] policy." He also
noted, "The prosecution has generated charges that the indictment
of Greenpeace is politically motivated due to the organization's
criticism of President Bush's environmental policies."
John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, said,
"We look forward to proving at trial that we are not guilty of the
charges and that we were doing the right thing to protect the
"The unprecedented nature of this prosecution has the potential
to transform an important aspect of our nation's legal and
political life, significantly affecting our tradition of civil
protest. The conduct for which the Ashcroft Justice Department
seeks to prosecute Greenpeace was, essentially, whistle-blowing --
publicly exposing and preventing violations of U.S. law prohibiting
the importation of illegally harvested mahogany wood. The Justice
Department's prosecution of Greenpeace is unwarranted and
Still pending before Judge Jordan is Greenpeace's motion to
obtain information on whether the Government is engaged in improper
In April 2002, two Greenpeace activists climbed onto a
commercial ship off the Florida coast with a banner that read,
"President Bush, Stop Illegal Logging." The ship was carrying
mahogany wood illegally exported from Brazil's Amazon rainforest.
The individuals involved in the protest were charged in 2002.
However, rather than prosecuting the importers of the illegal
mahogany, the Justice Department filed criminal charges against
Greenpeace itself in July 2003.
Numerous leaders, legal scholars and groups have publicly
criticized the prosecution; they include former Vice President
Gore, Senator Patrick Leahy, Julian Bond and the NAACP, the ACLU of
Florida, People for the American Way, the Sierra Club, the National
Resources Defense Council, the Miami Herald, the San Francisco
Chronicle and the Denver Post.
background (on the Greenpeace USA website).
New York Times: "Typical
Greenpeace Protest Leads to Unusual Prosecution."
"The extraordinary effort made to find and use this obscure law
strongly suggests a campaign of selective prosecution - the
greatest scourge of the First Amendment."
--George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley,
special to the
Los Angeles Times in Arbiter Online
Tell the US Government to prosecute illegal loggers, not