Wednesday, February 01, 2006
ACLU Wants Apology to VA Employee Investigated on 'Sedition'
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico wants the government to apologize to a nurse for seizing her computer and investigating her for "sedition'' after she criticized the Bush administration.
The ACLU said Wednesday the Department of Veterans Affairs found no evidence Laura Berg used her VA office computer to write the critical letter.
VA human resources chief Mel Hooker said in a Nov. 9 letter that his agency was obligated to investigate "any act which potentially represents sedition,'' the ACLU said.
A VA spokesman in Washington could not say Wednesday whether the agency had received the ACLU's request.
It seeks an apology from Hooker "to remedy the unconstitutional chilling effect on the speech of VA employees that has resulted from these intimidating tactics.''
Even if Berg had used an office computer, neither that nor her criticism approached "unlawful insurrection,'' said Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU.
"Is the government so jealous of its power, so fearful of dissent, that it needs to threaten people who openly oppose its policies with charges of sedition?'' he said.
Berg, a clinical nurse specialist, wrote a letter in September to a weekly Albuquerque newspaper criticizing how the administration handled Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War. She urged people to "act forcefully'' to remove an administration she said played games of "vicious deceit.''
She signed the letter as a private citizen, and the VA had no reason to suspect she used government resources to write it, the ACLU said.
"From all appearances, the seizure of her work computer was an act of retaliation and a hardball attempt to scare Laura into silence,'' the ACLU said.
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