17.7.07

Jay Lassiter's potential to matter

A bit of a stir developed in the New Jersey political blogosphere developed several weeks ago when PoliticsNJ reported:
"Among the final acts of Stuart Rabner's tenure as Attorney General of New Jersey: the Department of Law and Public Safety this week pulled press credentials for BlueJersey.com Statehouse correspondent Jay Lassiter."
The buzz found its way into the NJ section of the New York Times in a profile of Lassiter done by Jonathan Miller, who wrote:

"Mr. Lassiter...was selected in April to become...the first blogger to cover the Legislature. But last week he hit his first rough patch when the state police stripped him of an identification badge he had been issued in April, citing 'security issues.'

Officials said there was nothing in Mr. Lassiter's background that prompted the reversal. Rather, they said that they had decided to limit the number of badges issued to Capitol visitors and that his had been approved by mistake...Mr. Lassiter - who has never applied for press credentials from the New Jersey Press Association -said he was told by the police that he did not qualify for an identification card because Blue Jersey did not have an office here. He can enter the State House to conduct his reporting, he said, but instead of circumventing security and metal detectors with an official ID, he must be issued a visitor's badge."

As a political blogger myself who might one day wish to grace the State House with my presence, I wanted to understand exactly what decisions were taken. So I contacted the NJ Attorney General's office, and after a few days and two phone calls, as well as an inquiry submitted online, I received the following: (continued...)

Mr. Ajjan,

The purpose of this e mail is to respond to your e mail concerning Mr. Jay Lassiter being stripped by this office of his press pass to cover the State House. (SOS 324601)

The State Governmental Security Bureau (SGSB) of the New Jersey State Police is responsible for the safety and security of employees and visitors to state buildings and parking facilities throughout the state. It is not our responsibility to issue press credentials/passes.

The article you refer to states, "Among the final acts of Stuart Rabner's tenure as Attorney General of New Jersey, the Department of Law & Public Safety this week pulled press credentials for BlueJersey.com Statehouse correspondent Jay Lassiter."

The SGSB does not issue press credentials. The State House, and other state buildings have an ID system to identify persons assigned to the building. Some of these IDs grant users access to the parking garage and other areas of the building. All of the ID's identify the person as a worker in that building, thus allowing them entrance without signing in as a visitor. The State Police, SGSB maintain the system at the State House, and we issue State House ID's when authorization from a representative of one of the tenants is received.

Members of the media or any other person wishing to visit the State House may do so during normal operational hours of the facility by showing up and signing in with identification. This person in question, Mr. Lassiter, can visit the State House any time he would like. He is not issued a State House ID because he does not "work in the building" with an office here. He just needs to show up and sign in like any other visitor. Other press personnel have asked for the State House ID as a matter of convenience, and have not receive the ID. They are required to sign in as a visitor and conduct their business. Any person who doesn't work in the building, is required to be signed in as a visitor. This includes other state employees working outside of the particular building.

The article you referenced is using the term press credentials. They are actually referring to a State House ID which says press on it. This in no way is a valid press credential. Just like my State House ID has State Police on it, it is not a legitimate State Police Identification, but merely a State House ID, stating what area I work in.

Unfortunately the article written by Wally Edge mistakenly refers to a State House ID as a press credential. We are not determining who is issued a press credential, nor are we taking away anyone's ability to conduct business at the facility. We did take away Mr. Lassiter's ability to bypass state house security procedures which all non employees are subjected to.

I trust this gives you a clearer understanding of the events which have taken place. If you should have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me.

Lt. E. Sarin

In addition, an employee of the Attorney General's Office named Lee Moore called me to reiterate (I actually received his call before the email). He made all the same points very clearly, after which I concluded this was a whole lot of nothing. There is no freedom of press issue here, or any move to limit the public's ability to investigate the actions and work of the government they elect.

So why write about this? Because the principle behind it should be important to those who wish to safeguard a society based upon the ideas set forth in the Constitution (i.e. conservatives). Yet, RINO-hunter Joe Tomanelli, in response to the original blurb on PoliticsNJ, quipped:
"The point being...does anybody care?"
Tongue-in-cheek, Eric Sedler from RedJersey (BlueJersey's nemesis) blogged:
"Stuart Rabner is my hero."
But jokes aside, conservatives should care and should take no delight in any curtailment of press freedoms (even though there are absolutely NONE in this case). Even if restrictions were selectively applied to political opponents, conservatives must remain principled and defend to the hilt the right of their foes to spew liberal propaganda, as distasteful as we find it. As goes the phrase widely (but incorrectly) attributed to Voltaire:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
If the French affiliation of Voltairisms doesn't much impress Republicans, it will surely have great appeal than Michael Douglas's character in The American President, who said:

"America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."
Of course, later in the same speech, he proclaims:

"You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and hand guns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I'm gonna convince Americans that I'm right, and I'm gonna get the guns."
Good luck.

Liberals always seem like great Presidents in Hollywood movies, because they make the audience feel good when the movie ends.

Forunately for us, we never have to watch the horror sequel which depicts the outcome of their disastrous policies.

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