Kerry Breaks the Logan Act:

Rantingprofs asks this about Kerry's announcement today (emphasis added):

And at what point did it become appropriate for a candidate for office to have contact with foreign leaders? Doesn't Kerry realize the damage that can do? If he leads any foreign leader to believe that he'd be more sympathetic to their arguments and interests -- which clearly he's done -- how isn't that a signal to those countries to hold off any dealings with this administration in the hopes it will soon be sent packing and they'll be able to do better? And if that's the case, then why isn't Kerry now interfering with American foreign policy in a way that could potentially benefit him (by reducing the level of success this administration can chalk up between now and the elections since at least some leaders will be stonewalling hoping for a better deal)? No doubt some of that kind of stonewalling is likely with other governments during any election season -- should Kerry be explicitly encouraging it?
In fact, if Kerry has been involved in talks of these kinds with foreign leaders, he is guilty of violating the Logan Act, which has been on the books since 1799:
Sec. 953. - Private correspondence with foreign governments:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

Three years in a Federal prison is the penalty for this--that makes it not only a Federal crime, but a felony. Kerry won't be prosecuted, of course, for the simple reason that Bush can't afford to prosecute him--having Kerry arrested for any crime would appear to be a political assassination, regardless of guilt. But the point here is the same as the point below: Kerry, master of nuance, has been twenty years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He knows what the law is. Yet, he not only has responded to these advances from more than one foreign leader, he trumpets them to the press. Beware him.

UPDATE (2005): In later discussions on the Logan Act, it became clear that there were some important facts about it not clear to me at the time I wrote this piece. The first is that it has never been enforced; the second is that a sitting Senator may very well claim to have proper authority to speak for at least his part of the government, and constituents. Kerry's Vietnam-era negotiations in Paris appear still to have been a violation of the (never enforced) Logan Act, but this would not appear to be. The final position at the end of the debate was here. I say that Senators are 'obviously' exempt, though plainly it wasn't obvious to me at the beginning. It only became so on examination.