Free Speech and Cryptography

Captain Ed reports on new developments in the Lefkow killing.  The original suspect in that killing was a man named Matthew Hale, a white-supremacist whom the judge had ruled against in the past.  New reports are indicating that it was a man in another set of cases from that same judge, which just goes to show that even a medical malpractice case that goes against you might be grounds, in someone's mind, for murder.  It's tough being a judge.

But the Captain closes with the following comment:
 Hale may find himself off the hook for this case, but he still needs to answer for the attempt to smuggle out coded messages to his drooling toadies followers.  I doubt Hale just wanted to exchange season's greetings with his gang of racists. (via CQ reader Jim)
That's exactly wrong.  No one should have to "answer" for their speech, whether or not anyone else can understand it.  The right to free speech is meaningless without the right to speak in code.  If someone can be punished for speaking in a language his captors do not understand, absent any other crime for which there is separate proof of participation, then how are we to prevent the police from claiming any odd or unusual statement is "coded"?  Are we to believe the police when they claim a statement can be decoded into "Kill this person" rather than "Hi Mom, send cookies"?  What about people who habitually use encryption to send and receive email, whether they have anything secret to say or not?

Coded speech is still speech, even for criminals.  While we can attempt to prevent those presently imprisoned from communicating with their followers, we cannot in good conscience punish them for wishing to do so in code.

This entry was published Sat Sep 24 10:43:35 CDT 2005 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2005-09-24 10:43:35.0. [Tweet]

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