John Kerry

The Logan Act Is Awful and No, It's Not Going To Be Used Against John Kerry

This law is always being invoked in order to threaten political opponents, showing how it violates free speech protections.


The Logan Act is back in the news, and its invocation is as breathtakingly stupid as it has always been.

This time, President Donald Trump wants to use it against John Kerry, who has been meeting with Iranian officials to apparently attempt to somehow salvage vestiges of the nuclear agreement between them and the United States that Trump has backed out of.

The Logan Act makes it a federal crime for a private American citizen to engage in any communication or correspondence with a foreign government that intervenes in a dispute with the United States and that government in order to "defeat" any measures by the U.S.

The law has been around since 1799, yet nobody has ever been prosecuted for violating it (two people have been indicted but never prosecuted). Attempting to enforce the law would demonstrate just how thoroughly it violates the free speech rights of Americans.

Trump has complained about Kerry's behavior on Twitter and to the press, saying Kerry is violating the Logan Act. On Monday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking him to investigate whether Kerry's behavior is indeed in violation.

Trump raising the specter of the Logan Act follows a very clear trend that goes all the way back to the law's roots. The person or political party in control of American foreign policy wants to use it to punish a political opponent for openly speaking and attempting to influence foreign governments in ways they don't like. In this case, the Trump administration is itching for war with Iran. Kerry is trying to prevent it.

This attempt to criminalize speech in the Logan Act was designed for the very purpose of punishing political opponents. In fact, the law was written back in 1799 in a situation much like this one, where a private American citizen, Philadelphia Quaker George Logan, attempted to negotiate with France to stop an undeclared sea war between the two countries. Logan's actions pissed off the Federalist Party, and they pushed the bill through Congress.

The law's roots are entirely political and are not based on any actual threat that speech between a citizen and foreign government would somehow undermine America's foreign policies. The history of the Logan Act has entirely revolved around members of one political party trying to use it against another.

In fact, Trump's presidential campaign has been on the other end of this nonsense as well. Back in 2017, experts in the Logan Act suggested that Mike Flynn, part of Trump's post-election transition team, may have violated the law by discussing with a Russian diplomat potential responses to U.S. sanctions and a United Nations vote condemning Israeli settlements.

The invocation of the law was stupid then—particularly since Trump was preparing to take office and take control over the country's foreign policy—and it's just as stupid now. As I noted at the time, bringing up the Logan Act was clearly a way to try to get at Trump and those connected to him because proving corruption is hard and people were looking to grab anything they could to try to get him out of office. It didn't work. Using it against Kerry won't work, either.

I suspect nothing will come of this nonsense and it will get dropped. Part of me hopes the Justice Department will attempt to charge Kerry with violations of the Logan Act, if only so that the courts will toss the law out as unconstitutional. Instead, though, it will just sit around like this and periodically be used to insist to the public that political opponents are committing crimes by talking to and negotiating with foreign governments.

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  1. If you are advocating ON BEHALF of the USA and you have no authority to do so, you are committing fraud.

    You are not negotiating in good faith, since you cannot get the US Government to do anything you promised.

    We grant this power to the President because he is like our CEO and its easier to negotiate international deals with 1 person instead of 435 dipshits in Congress.

    Should it be illegal? I don’t think so but dipshits like Kerry need to realize that he is done politically and should stop undermining America’s foreign policy under a Trump Administration.

    The people who elected Trump don’t want Kerry anywhere near our foreign policy.

    1. Kerry is not giving his opinion, which should be protected by the 1st Amendment.

      Kerry is trying to undermine Trump’s strategy just like the media does. Additionally, Kerry is trying to save his and Obama’s “legacy”.

      Carter has done the same thing. I am sure there are fat-headed Republicans who have done the same thing.

      These people need to admit that they are not in charge and are sending mixed signals to the other international parties.

      If Iran thinks that Trump does not have the domestic support that he actually does, Iran might do something stupid like try and use nukes or attack shipping. These are acts of war and I would support turning Iran into a giant area of glass.

      Ask Japan how picking a fight with the USA turns out.

      1. Iran might do something stupid like try and use nukes

        What nukes would they use?

        1. Dirty bomb.

          They have nuclear material. Iran just likely does not have a working nuclear device.

          1. Oh ok. How likely do you think that scenario is?

            Also, go look into dirty bombs. They’re more mythological than real things. You’d have to have some pretty radioactive stuff (more so than reactor grade uranium) to do much radiological damage, especially because it’s being so finely dispersed. They’re basically conventional bombs with a terror factor attached. It’s not really accurate to call them “nukes.”

            1. With Iran? Its more likely than most countries. Iran took over our embassy in 1979, which is a blatant act of war and violation of international law.

              Carter let it happen. I think Trump would use military force to get our Americans back.

              As to dirty bombs, they are not “mythological”. Contaminating large areas with certain radioactive isotopes makes the area mostly inhabitable for generations. Any person with brains would know to use a dirty bomb on a city like NYC because it would have maximum effect. A container ship rerouted from Iran and exploding in NY Harbor would work.

              1. With Iran? Its more likely than most countries.

                How so? Have they ever done anything like that before?

                Iran took over our embassy in 1979, which is a blatant act of war and violation of international law.

                Ok. All the shit that went down there during the revolution was bad. That doesn’t mean they’re going to set off a dirty bomb somewhere.

                Is shooting down a civilian airliner with a surface to air missile considered to be an act of war? Is it a violation of international law? If so, would a country that does such a thing more likely to set off a dirty bomb somewhere?

                Carter let it happen. I think Trump would use military force to get our Americans back.

                Are you familiar with the events surrounding that time? Doesn’t sound like it. Carter tried a military rescue of the hostages and it failed.

                As to dirty bombs, they are not “mythological”. Contaminating large areas with certain radioactive isotopes makes the area mostly inhabitable for generations.

                They’re mythological in that no one has ever used one. The few times they’ve been tried were complete failures. For a scenario like the one you described, you’d have to have so much highly radioactive shit in one place, there’s no way to hide what you’re doing for very long. You can’t do it with reactor grade uranium. You have to have a shitload of reactor waste or a lot of something very expensive like medical grade cesium or polonium. All the nuclear waste in Iran is under IAEA safeguards and there is no evidence that any of it has been diverted, much less the amounts needed to do what you’re talking about. It’s a TV show plot, not something that’s currently a real threat.

                1. Iran clearly does not give much concern over international law. Taking embassy hostage is what punks do. They acted like little terrorists so we treat them like terrorists.

                  The vincennes shooting was absolutely an act of war. We apologized but we were wrong. Iran didnt declare war on us and accepted our cash pallets for all past wrongdoings.

                  Carter tried a military rescue that involved a few C-130s and helicopters and it was a disaster. No followup attempt. Almost like just enought dead American milotary folks to satisfy and complaints by the American public to rescue histages. Fucking disgraceful.

                  So you think dirty bombs are mythological but admit that they have been used.

                  I forget that you are the way you and normally dont even engage your nonsense.

              2. Iran took over our embassy because we gifted a puppet dictator a free ride out of the country because the people of Iran were going to give him the Mussolini treatment.

                1. The Iranians sure did a shit job trading up regimes.

      2. “Ask Japan how picking a fight with the USA turns out.”

        The United States has not won a war in roughly 75 years. Instead we have a series of vague draws with ragtag irregulars, despite enormous taxpayer-provided military advantages.

        1. Grenada was less than 75 years ago. It wasn’t a draw.

        2. 1st Gulf War was a bit over 18 years ago.

          A massive Allied airforce and mechanized force obliterated the Iraqi Army, which was the 5th largest army in the World in 1990.

          1. In 3 days.

            1. +10

            2. It was closer to 100 hours, but yeah, pretty much. We kicked the shit out of them. Most of the guys we captured looked almost happy to be POWs.

    2. “The people who elected Trump”
      . . . the half-educated, bigoted, slack-jawed, economically inadequate, backwaters-inhabiting, superstitious minority?

      1. Well done, Art. I like how you remind people multiple times per day that Drumpf’s support came almost exclusively from poor people. Of course, poor people voting Republican has been the pattern in every American Presidential election of the past few decades.


        1. Not all bigots — or people whose lack of character inclines them to appease bigotry — are poor.

          1. As evidenced by every single one of your posts.

            1. Arty IS poor. He’s a high school dropout assistant janitor who cleans up after a wealthy conservative business owner. So he’s full of envy and hatred because he’s a such a loser and sees how superior conservatives and libertarians truly are.

              So like Buffalo Bill, he covets. It’s his sole focus in his stunted, pathetic little life.

      2. The federal government isn’t interested in actually winning wars any more. They are interested in using war and the specter of war to score domestic political points.

        Iraq II makes this clear. Our military steamrolled over Iraq’s regular and elite military forces much quicker than expected, but they went in without any thought to or plan for what to do after.

    3. Then I guess the question is whether he is advocating on behalf of the USA, or if he’s just talking to people. As long as he’s not claiming to the Iranians that he is in any position to actually negotiate US foreign policy, I don’t see that he’s doing anything fraudulent.

      1. Another good point. John Kerry had years to solve the Iraq quamire and failed.

        Now he wants to fail with Iran. Revoke that dipshits passport.

        BTW, revoking passports should not be allowed for any reason, but since the Democrats allowed that into law, revoke Kerry’s.

        1. I wouldn’t mind perp walking him into custody. And as he has lots of classified information, we should throw him into GitMo. This can be a recurring theme with his mind once the Barr probe gathers steam.


    5. We should reference the Constitution’s stipulation that the Executive branch handles foreign relations.
      Does John Kerry have the right to speak his mind just as every other American has? Absolutely.
      Does John Kerry have the right to work against the duly elected government of the United States? No. He has the right to speak, but if he breaks the law, then he has to pay the price for it.
      Can you yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater? Some maintain that is their right. But our courts have rightly decided that such speech infringes upon the health and safety of the theater patrons, some of whom may be trampled and injured in the ensuing rush to escape the theater.
      John Kerry is advising a terrorist nation on how to work against the interests of the United States. That does violate the Logan Act, and it likely violates other statutes as well.
      There seems to be a sense that well known, famous, and connected politicians may not be prosecuted for their crimes. Hillary Clinton was proven to have violated the statutes regarding the handling of classified documents (statutes which have nothing to do with intent), and she was not indicted or prosecuted. And the attitude of the news media was “so what?” Thus it seems to be with Kerry.

  2. John Kerry should be hung for Treason. Then we can charge his corpse under the Logan Act, which, I don’t care if it has ever been used before successfully, this is the very reason it was envisioned

    1. That final “sentence” demonstrates that you did not attend a good public high school. Or junior high school.

      1. Considering you have never posted anything that would suggest average, and definitely nothing that would demonstrate above average, intelligence (and education) it is pretty rich that you are ridiculing others scholastic achievements.

      2. Arty, get off your wealthy conservative boss’s computer and start cleaning his office you worthless layabout. That’s what you’re being paid minimum wage for, you subnormal bitch.

  3. Caption: Here is John F’ing Kerry droning on about the difference between ketchup and catsup.

  4. Missing from this article?

    Links to any Reason articles defending Mike Flynn back when people were calling for his prosecution.

    1. Sorry, my bad, clicked link, but opened wrong tab. Found linked article I stand corrected.

      1. Partisan harder, why even look at the article?

  5. The comments in that original reason article about mike flynn and the logan act are pretty funny!

  6. My rights to speech and freedom of association overrule the Logan Act. John Kerry is an ass, but that is another issue 🙂

    1. We’re not talking about your rights. We’re talking about John Kerry; he is a former senior government official, and as such, it is legitimate to hold him to different standards. Just the fact that he has knowledge of still-classified information alone makes it unacceptable for him to talk to foreign powers on matters of US policy.

      1. With all due respect, you are wrong. Kerry, or you, or me, cannot be muzzled simply because we might know some classified information. If we actually revealed such information, well, that would be different.

        1. Yes, he can. In fact he signed a number of agreements to that effect every time he was granted access to classified information. No one put a gun to his head and made him do that

          You really don’t understand how any of this works.

  7. Kerry’s pretty clearly trying to undermine the current administration using his credentials as a member of the previous administration. I’d say if the Logan act ever had a raison d’être, this one would be it.

    1. Preface: Kerry is an idiot. But, but being an idiot does not mean one forfeits their right to speak their minds, or their right to associate. If I had the opportunity, I would gladly lend my “wisdom” to a foreign nation on how to “undo” some of the stupidities of the current administration, as well the previous two. Or three, or maybe six. And I am not claiming to be anything more than an idiot, in that making such an attempt would probably be futile at best. 🙂

      1. AlbertP, Don’t worry about it you are an IDIOT! No problem

        1. Well, thanks for the clarification 🙂

      2. John Kerry forfeited a number of his options for certain kinds of speech regarding specific subjects, and regards to interacting with certain classes of people when he took any of his positions related to national security. He signed various contracts and agreements pursuant to these positions.

  8. This time, President Donald Trump wants to use it against John Kerry,

    I see CNN claiming that; where is the actual Tweet by Donald Trump?

  9. In this case, the Trump administration is itching for war with Iran. Kerry is trying to prevent it.

    Is this the same John Kerry who claimed that dropping bombs on a sovereign country for the purpose of degrading a military force located there is “not war?” Now that’s someone I’d trust to prevent a war!

    1. Damn it with this codes!!!

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