ACLU Argues for Marine’s Free Speech Rights

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties argued in military court today to dismiss a charge against a Marine accused of disobeying an order by allegedly giving an interview to the news media, on the ground that the order violates the First Amendment and is unlawful.

In July 2007, Gary Maziarz pleaded guilty in a court martial to mishandling classified material in connection with the theft and transfer to civilian law enforcement of secret documents that allegedly detailed secret monitoring of Muslim groups in southern California. After he served his sentence, the Marine Corps issued a gag order prohibiting him from discussing “the subject matter of the loss or compromise” of classified material with the news media. He was subsequently charged with disobeying the gag order.

ACLU’s legal director David Blair-Loy argued that such a broad order violated Maizarz’s right to freedom of speech, even under the First Amendment standards applicable to the military, and was therefore unlawful. “Our founders created the First Amendment specifically to protect the ability of citizens to challenge policies and conduct of the government,” he said. “This was a blanket restriction on his right to express himself on a matter of public concern; it was not restricted to disclosure of classified material, and is therefore unconstitutional.”

Under military law, a servicemember may not be convicted of disobeying an unlawful order. Maziarz is not charged with revealing classified material.

A decision is expected in 7-10 days.