Wendy Kaminer

Wendy Kaminer is a former senior correspondent for The American Prospect and a contributing editor at The Atlantic Monthly. She also serves on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union.

A lawyer, social critic, and former Guggenheim Fellow, she writes about law, liberty, feminism, religion, and popular culture. Her latest book is Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today. Other books she has written include Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety; True Love Waits: Essays and Criticism; It's All the Rage: Crime and Culture; I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional: The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help Fashions; and A Fearful Freedom: Women's Flight from Equality. Kaminer's articles and reviews have appeared in many other publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and Newsweek, and her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio.

Before embarking on her writing career, Kaminer practiced law as a staff attorney in the New York Legal Aid Society and the New York City Mayor's Office.

Wendy Kaminer retains copyrights to all her articles.

Recent Articles

Porn Again

F ree-speech advocates who cheered the recent Supreme Court decision striking down portions of the Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA) should not have been surprised when Attorney General John Ashcroft and members of Congress quickly announced their intention to enact another, similar child-porn law for the courts to consider. Congress and the White House (under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) have not been deterred by concerns about constitutional liberties in their campaigns against speech presumed to be harmful to children. After the Supreme Court struck down the obviously unconstitutional Communications Decency Act, which banned "indecency" online, in 1997, Congress quickly enacted the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which banned commercial speech deemed "harmful to minors." A federal appeals court struck down COPA, but the Supreme Court recently sent it back to the lower courts while continuing to enjoin its enforcement. Maybe Congress and the White House don't care...

I Snoop

W hat's the difference between a spy and a snoop? It's not merely semantic. Snoops are objects of derision -- nosy neighbors, Peeping Toms, or perverts. Spies are heroes, or antiheroes at least, as the resilience of James Bond fantasies attest. So when Attorney General John Ashcroft exhorts neighborhood groups to be on the lookout for terrorists in their midst, he's inviting them to see themselves as spies, not the snoops that some will turn out to be. In March, the attorney general announced that the Neighborhood Watch Program, conceived some 30 years ago to help prevent ordinary street crimes, will be enlisted in the war against terrorism. With the aid of a $1.9 million grant to the National Sheriffs' Association, the number of groups nationwide will be doubled -- to 15,000 from 7,500 -- and ordinary Americans "will be provided with information which will enable them to recognize signs of potential terrorist activity." What sort of signs? "We expect people to be aware of suspicious...

Drugs, Terror, and Evictions

T hanks partly to its association with 1960s counterculture, marijuana use has long been considered vaguely un-American. Never mind that millions of Americans have indulged in it. The pot-smoking pinkos of yesterday are -- according to the Bush administration -- the aiders and abettors of terrorists today. A new series of antidrug ads aimed at teenagers, commissioned by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, blames consumers of illicit drugs for the proliferation of terrorism. "Drug money supports terror," the ads proclaim. "I helped a bomber get a fake passport," one young actor confesses. Others own up to helping terrorists blow up buildings, murder police officers, and teach other kids how to kill. "Where do terrorists get their money?" the ads ask. "If you buy drugs, some of it might come from you." You can view a typical "I helped" ad (and other official anti-drug propaganda) at www.mediacampaign.com . There you'll find details about the "undeniable link between...

Lies and consequences.

"T here are lots of different situations when the government has legitimate reasons to give out false information," Solicitor General Theodore Olson told the U.S. Supreme Court in March. He was defending the government's right to lie in Harbury v. Christopher , Jennifer Harbury's lawsuit against former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and other high-ranking Clinton appointees. Harbury alleges that the Clinton administration lied to her about the detention and torture of her late husband, who was captured by the Guatemalan military in 1992 and eventually killed -- while she pleaded for assistance in finding him. According to Harbury, government officials told her they had no information about her husband when, in fact, they knew he was in the custody of Guatemalans working with the CIA. The truth of her claim that the government lied is not at issue before the Supreme Court. Rather, it must simply decide if she has a right to sue officialdom for purposefully deceiving her in order...


I f I drop dead tomorrow, all the work I've produced since 1978 will enjoy copyright protection for the next 70 years, until 2072, some 120 years after my birth. If I live another 30 years or so all the work I've produced since 1978 will be protected into the beginning of the twenty-second century. Much as I value my copyrights, which allow me to control and profit from my work, and much as I disdain plagiarism and pirating, I don't expect to derive any benefit from copyrights that survive me by decades. But, then again, the Copyright Extension Act of 1998, which added an additional 20 years to almost all existing copyrights, wasn't intended to benefit me or other individual writers and artists. It was primarily intended to benefit corporations that expect to live forever, with congressional assistance: Disney may prove virtually immortal, if it never loses the rights to Mickey Mouse. Disney lobbied hard for the 1998 law, partly because Mickey's copyright was due to expire in 2003...