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Missing Facts

DISSENT

By John A. Cloud

THE staff fears that this decision will set a precedent of judicial restraint of American media. If CNN is prevented from airing tapes on the grounds that Noriega's right to a fair trial has been abridged, as this opinion reasons, then it is foreseeable that federal marshalls will march into America's newsrooms and pull stories with only the weakest of possibilities that it could damage right to a fair trial.

But this opinion fails to investigate several critical pieces of information. How did these tapes come to be recorded in the first place? Was it indeed a government error and illegal? For security reasons, all other conversations and letters are monitored as standard policy.

t has been suggested that Noriega forgot to tell prison officials that these phone calls were to his attorney. The staff has assumed prosecutors would have access to the tapes. There is no evidence that this is what happened.

Even if the tapes were recorded illegally, the result of government screw-up, how did CNN get its hands on them? If the tapes were obtained illegally then the courts are required to protect the defendant's rights. Otherwise, if the right to free speech supercedes all other, the press would be virtually authorized to use whatever means necessary to get a story--regardless of the legality.

By neglecting to consider all of the facts in this case, the staff opinoin states that freedom of speech is absolute. And indeed, it is correct to defend freedom of speech. But the First Ammendment of the Constitution, however sacred, cannot be protected in the absence of other basic tenets of American justice--of which defendants' rights are essential.

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