Criticizing Bush Now Equals Sedition?

Monday, February 13, 2006 at 08:56 AM

For those who may still think that comparisons of modern America to totalitarian regimes is hysterical overstatement, we have this.  On Saturday, Editor & Publisher reported that a VA nurse had been investigated for sedition, based on a letter she had written to a local paper criticizing various aspects of George Bush's presidency.

E&P reported that the nurse, Laura Berg, urged people to "act forcefully" by bringing criminal charges against top administration officials, including the president, to remove them from power because they played games of "vicious deceit." She added: "This country needs to get out of Iraq now and return to our original vision and priorities of caring for land and people and resources rather than killing for oil....Otherwise, many more of us will be facing living hell in these times."

What happened is described in somewhat more detail by Kate Nelson, managing editor of the Albuquerque Tribune:

In the letter, published in the Sept. 15 Weekly Alibi, she said she didn't care for his response to Hurricane Katrina victims. She didn't like his ballooning deficit. And, as a nurse who counsels returning vets, she feared for future generations of families scarred by their mother's or father's service-related disorders.

Half of America is complaining about the same stuff around the dinner table right now, but when a government worker exercises her free-speech rights, well, we're talking a federal case.

Literally. As in FBI. As in guys coming to Berg's office, handing her a memo and yanking her computer. And as in VA officials who will accept questions from reporters only in writing and respond to them without really answering them.

I submitted five questions. They included, "How does writing a letter to the editor rise to the level of encouraging the overthrow of government?" And, "Have other employees had records or equipment seized?" And, "Her co-workers issued a memo in support of her; has the administration communicated in any way on this matter with the staff?"

Here's their entire response:

"While VA does not prohibit employees from exercising their freedom of speech, we do ask that such activity occurs outside government premises and not during their official tour of duty. When we have reason to believe that this policy is not being adhered to, we have the obligation to review an individual's computer activity."

Uh, OK. Thanks especially for that helpful explanation on the sedition question.

E&P also noted that Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) has asked Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson for a thorough inquiry concerning his agency's decision to investigate the nurse.

Are we flirting with a dictatorship, or what?  A couple of weeks ago, an anti-Bush tee shirt got you arrested but quickly released, now an anti-Bush letter to the editor gets you investigated for sedition?  Do the geniuses at the top of the VA even know what sedition means?

"When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and wearing a large cross."