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Open and Shut

From the Fall 2002 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 48.

From the Fall 2002 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 48.

A collection of recent funny, fascinating, nonsensical or just notable newsworthy quotations.


“I told the president I thought his Justice Department was out of control.”

— House Majority Leader Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) speaking to the USA Today editorial board in August, expressing concerns about the administration’s lack of regard for “personal civil liberties.”


“Senator Levin detailed the plot in his charts and talked about failures, most of which related to watch listing. My first information about that came from a Newsweek article June 10, 2002, which carefully documents this material as well. I’m not sure why I learned it from Newsweek first, but at any rate, that’s where I learned it.”

— Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) during House and Senate Select Intelligence Committees Joint Hearing on September 11 Intelligence Failures, commenting on whether agencies failed to put certain potentially dangerous individuals on watch lists.


“I found out about it when I read it in the newspaper, I guess on Tuesday or Wednesday. I could have had a briefing on Thursday, but because we had a Joint Intelligence Committee that ran throughout the day, it was postponed, and I had it finally on Saturday.”

— Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), on CBS News “Face the Nation,” explaining how he learned of the disclosure that North Korean officials had told their U.S. counterparts that they were developing nuclear missiles.


“It’s silly and they ought to change their decision. The President is getting poor advice.

— Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) regarding White House’s continued efforts to not release information regarding what the administration knew leading up to the September 11 attacks.


“The people that are talking to the media about war plans are so far out of line and so disgracefully misbehaving. Anyone who knows anything isn’t talking and anyone with any sense isn’t talking. Therefore, the people that are talking to the media are, by definition, people who don’t know anything.”

— Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in September while flying to a NATO meeting in Poland, according to a USA Today report.


“The Executive Branch seeks to uproot people’s lives, outside the public eye, and behind a closed door. Democracies die behind closed doors.”

— Federal appellate Judge Damon J. Keith (6th Cir.) in rejecting the government’s right to automatically close all “special interest” deportation cases.


“This democracy was created right around the corner, behind closed doors.”

— Federal appellate Judge Morton Greenberg (3rd Cir.) in Philadelphia responding to the Sixth Circuit’s statement.


“It is troubling to have classified information which contradicts statements made by the administration. It is maddening to have classified information which contradicts classified information leaked by the administration.”

— Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) after Oct. 4 Senate Intelligence Committee meeting on Iraqi weapons programs, reported by The Associated Press.


“Today, the Government filed a motion under seal; the Court issued an order under seal; and the defendant filed two motions, which were filed under seal.”

— From the court docket in United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui.


“Powers granted to this administration must continue to be checked. Oh, I tell you, they need to be checked. The need for checks on administrative powers is not just hypothetical, it is not just constitutional; I wish more would pay attention to that aspect of it. It has been well documented by recent Executive actions.”

— Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.V.) during consideration of the Homeland Security Act of 2002.


“In a zealous frenzy, the government has constantly relied on coerced information, put the cart before the horse, rushed to judgment in the mistaken assumption that the people will always acquiescence and that they (the government) will continue to be able to do whatever they want in the misguided assurance that they are almighty, because they carry ‘the big stick of righteousness.'”

— Peggi Thompson, mother of detainee James Ujaama in an email to Rocky Mountain News Reporter Charlie Brennan.


“If your client wants confidentiality — doesn’t want to be in the public eye — maybe your client should reconsider their position.”

— Federal Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein during oral arguments for families of September 11 victims seeking to keep their claims secret.


“This White House releases information about core decisions by the president when it’s politically convenient and withholds it when it is not . . . The president can waive this.”

— Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton on White House’s withholding of Clinton presidential documents.