VA Nurse Accused of Sedition After Criticizing Bush Speaks Out
Laura Berg, the Albuquerque, New Mexico Veterans Affairs nurse who was investigated for sedition after she wrote a letter (her first) to a local newspaper criticizing the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war and Katrina, conducted her first broadcast interview yesterday with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman.
Those who are charged with sedition advocate the forceful, violent overthrow of the government.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
AMY GOODMAN: What was the response?The ACLU, the group representing Berg, is waiting for a response from its Freedom of Informtion request from the FBI.
LAURA BERG: It was published, and then it was a couple days interim, and I went into work on a Monday. I immediately had co-workers come to me and say, "We really support your letter but you may be in trouble, and you need to go to the union immediately." I went to the union, and I was told by the union that I had been reported up -- my letter and me had been reported up through V.A. channels to the F.B.I
AMY GOODMAN: To the F.B.I.?
LAURA BERG: To the F.B.I. And, you know, as a direct response to my publication of this letter. And --
AMY GOODMAN: Were you surprised?
LAURA BERG: Oh, I was shocked. I was absolutely shocked. I was -- I was unbelieving. I was frightened, very, very frightened. And I felt this was, you know, intimidation. You know. And it was -- I was told that it wasn't really -- it was just through channels, you know, it wasn't anything really against me personally, just that my letter came in in a search engine, and it was sent up. It wasn't really local.
However, it was, oh, a week later that approximately a week later I was sitting at may desk and there was a knock on the door. And my -- the information security representatives came to impound my computer. They served me with a memo saying there was a belief I had written this on my work computer, and that would be a misuse of government equipment. So I guess I could say I was -- at that point it was local, you know. It was about me. It was about my letter. And it was local repercussions, so this was a memo written by our human resources director, Mr. Hooker.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me read again from the memo of November 9 from the Chief of Human Resources Management Service. "In your letter to the editor of the weekly Alibi," the memo says, "you declared yourself a V.A. nurse and publicly declared the government, which employs you, to have tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence and advocated 'act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit.' The agency is bound by law to investigate and pursue any act, which potentially represents sedition. You are reminded that government equipment is just that, and the government may apprehend, investigate use or permit the use of such at its discretion and direction. Signed, Mel Hooker, Chief of Human Resources Management Service." Your response to this letter, saying -- to investigate you for sedition?
LAURA BERG: Amy, I did not sign away my First Amendment rights as a citizen, you know, by choosing to serve in the federal government and choosing to serve veterans and care for people that have been wounded like this, you know. And this letter sounds like something from a totalitarian regime, you know, that we are supposedly going in and share our democracy. This is way out of line. This was way out line. I have a right to speak my opinion. I have a right to say I'm a V.A. nurse. I do not speak for the V.A. I speak as a public citizen. And I -- you know, we have to -- I thank Larry, I thank the attorneys and the support across the country, because we really need to speak out about this. This is really, really frightening.
Laura Berg says by speaking out, she is stepping "off the edge" and her job is in jeopardy. "But at this point it's more important for me to say this. You know, and if I have to risk my job, the V.A. is going to lose an excellent person, you know, that does not bring politics into the workplace, you know, and is a very caring person. And this country, you know, will lose many, many dedicated, caring people, you know, if this continues. And, I mean, we are going to lose a lot more than that. We are going to lose a whole lot."