Tag Archives: Freedom of the press

America’s Kristallnacht? by Robert Gore

If the US government prosecutes Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, it will mark a point of no return.

We’ll never know what “average” Germans thought on November 11, 1938, the day after Kristallnacht. Perhaps a few recognized it for what it was: a turning point, an acceleration of Germany’s descent into hell. America’s Crystal Night looms, and if it occurs, only a few will recognize it for what it is.

The fate of Julian Assange is the fate of one man, but it is also the fate of one of our most important freedoms. There won’t be shattered plate glass from vandalized businesses littering the streets, synagogues smashed, graves unearthed, or people herded onto trains. But his prosecution by the US government would destroy an inestimable value, one enshrined in the First Amendment, for which generations of Americans have fought and died: the right of the people and its press to inform the people and to hold their government to account.

Aside from armed resistance and revolution, the one defense individuals have against governments is intellectual: the concept of individual rights. There is an argument as to whether those rights come from our Creator (Thomas Jefferson) or from our basic nature as humans and the requirements of our survival (Ayn Rand). Despite starting from different premises, both arguments lead to the same conclusion: individuals have inherent, inalienable, inviolable rights, and the only legitimate function of government is to protect those rights.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were explicit attempts to delineate a set of principles that recognized individual rights and tried to restrain government power. Though real-world implementation has fallen short, often far short, they were towering conceptual achievements.

In 1933, the year Hitler assumed power, the government began enacting laws that restricted Jews’ rights to earn a living, gain an education, or work in the civil service. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws stripped German Jews of their citizenship and forbade them from marrying non-Jewish Germans.

Kristallnacht’s hooliganism was encouraged by the German authorities, and none of the perpetrators bore any legal consequences. More than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and deported to concentration camps. The government would not protect Jews from the depredations of thugs and the government itself was a thug. Kristallnacht was a point of no return: Jews no longer had any legally enforceable rights. Soon enough no German would.

In America, there is no one villain or group that one can point to as responsible for the erosion of rights. Begun the day the Constitution was ratified, it’s been a gradual process. We’ve reached the point where only a few of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights still receive any measure of government solicitude.

Property and contract rights are out the window; the government routinely abridges them. You have no right to your own income, or to conduct your legitimate business or trade free from government regulation and interference. Much of the Bill of Rights is either irrelevant now or has been rendered a dead letter. In terms of individual rights, only the Second Amendment’s much infringed right to bear arms, and the First Amendment—the prohibition against the government establishing a religion, free speech, press, and assembly, and the right to petition the government—are still hanging by a thread.

Which is why the fate of Julian Assange takes on such significance. While the government has prosecuted those like Chelsea (formerly Brad) Manning who have stolen government secrets and classified information, it has not prosecuted the press individuals and organizations who have published them. That is WikiLeaks’ business model: it receives, vets, and publishes stolen information, often from governments.

The government has not gone after publishers because it would be a frontal assault on the First Amendment that it would probably lose. Any exception would swallow the general rule of press freedom. Say the Supreme Court recognized an exception: classified information whose publication would constitute an imminent and grave threat to the security of the United States. Who decides what’s an imminent and grave threat? The government would have the power to classify whatever information it pleases under that exception and put those who publish it at risk of prosecution, their only recourse years of costly litigation spent arguing that the information didn’t fit the exception.

Many Trump admirers resist the notion that their man is interested in the acquisition and use of power, but his and members of his administration’s hostility to individual civil liberties belies that resistance. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a gung-ho supporter of the civil-liberties-eviscerating-government-power-expanding War on Drugs and civil asset forfeiture.

In the latter, a government seizes assets it claims were involved with crimes and makes their owners jump through myriad legal hoops—including proving the negative that their assets weren’t involved in a crime—even if the owners themselves were never convicted, or even charged, with a crime. Assets that are not “acquitted”—cars, cash, boats, houses, etc.—are kept and used by the government. President Trump has endorsed civil asset forfeiture, and has extended it outside America’s borders via an executive order (see “By Imperial Decree,” SLL, 1/2/18).

Trump’s Secretary of State and former director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo has fashioned a legal approach the administration might use, in a case against WikiLeaks and Assange, to slither around the First Amendment. In April, still director of the CIA, he delivered a speech in which several passages demanded, but never received, careful parsing from the mainstream media. They are still obsessing over a February Trump tweet in which he declared the US media an “enemy of the people.” This is considered a threat to the First Amendment, but Pompeo’s speech was mostly ignored.

Pompeo called WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” Most press organizations, and almost all that consistently challenge the state, are non-state. WikiLeaks has published state secrets, undoubtedly considered hostile acts by those states, but how is it an intelligence service? Pompeo is arguing that WikiLeaks cannot be considered part of the press, consequently it’s not protected by the First Amendment.

As for the “abetted by state actors like Russia,” WikiLeaks has consistently denied it received the DNC emails from Russia, and nobody has proven otherwise. The best technical evidence indicates those DNC emails were directly downloaded to a portable storage device, indicating an inside job, and not remotely hacked, by Russians or anyone else.

Pompeo argued that “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” This is straight from Orwell: you are free to say what you want, as long as you don’t say anything against the government. He claimed that WikiLeaks “pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice,” and, “they may have believed that, but they are wrong.” Now where would WikiLeaks get such a crazy idea? How about the plain language of the First Amendment?

Finally, Pompeo threatened: “To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.” Any government “secrets” the press publishes with the full approval of the government probably aren’t going to be terribly revealing. It’s the secrets the government doesn’t want revealed, the ones that are generally “misappropriated,” that reveal the most important secrets, which an informed and free people must know if they are to call their government to account.

From the excerpts quoted above, and the video of the relevant part of speech below, make up your own mind as to who’s perverting the Constitution.

Freedom of the press protects the rights of the press, but more importantly protects the right of all of us to be informed, especially about what was once considered “our” government. It amplifies the freedom of speech. Even a small newspaper reaches more people than someone shouting from a street corner.

If Assange and WikiLeaks are tried and convicted in a US court as “a non-state hostile intelligence service,” the government can slap that label on any person or organization publishing or otherwise disclosing its secrets. The case would probably make its way to the Supreme Court. If the court accepted the Pompeo exception to the First Amendment, freedom of the press and speech would become two more of the Constitution’s dead letters.

Just the prosecution of Assange and WikiLeaks would have a chilling effect. Not that most of the US’s supine mainstream and social media would be chilled. The mainstream media that have spoken out about Assange and WikiLeaks have come down on the side of the government. The social media companies, de facto arms of the government, are shutting down politically incorrect voices. Neither mainstream or social media have anything to lose from the termination of First Amendment freedoms because they don’t say, or allow anyone else to say, anything the powers that be don’t want heard.

Trump is a wild card on WikiLeaks and Assange. WikiLeaks’ disclosure of the DNC emails helped his campaign. He praised it back then, but now appears ready to prosecute. Trump administration officials and Trump himself often say one thing while Trump does another. It is not a given that Assange will be either extradited by the British government or prosecuted in the US.

Few totalitarian regimes take their people’s rights away all at once. It’s done gradually to reduce dissent, until that Kristallnacht moment where it’s impossible to evade the reality: there are no rights left. If the Trump administration prosecutes Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, that sinking feeling in your stomach will be the realization that the last remnant of your rights are gone, that the government and Trump are your enemies.

If Assange and WikiLeaks are prosecuted, who will dare tell the truth about the government? Trump will have destroyed one of the last vestiges of individual rights—and the freedom that goes with it—that once made America great.

 

Advertisements

Supreme court cellphone case puts free speech – not just privacy – at risk, by Jameel Jaffer and Alexander Abdo

If the government can track where you are without a warrant, it will obviously violate your right to privacy, but it could also impinge on a variety of other rights. From Jameel Jaffer and Alexander Abdo at theguardian.com:

Carpenter v United States has rightly prompted concerns over surveillance. But it could also have drastic implications for personal freedom in the digital age

Police stand outside the supreme court in Washington.
Police stand outside the supreme court in Washington. Justices will soon address questions over the warrantless use of cellphone information. Photograph: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Less appreciated is the significance of the case for rights protected by the first amendment. The parties’ briefs make little mention of the first amendment, instead framing the dispute – for understandable reasons – as one about the right to privacy. Yet the court’s resolution of the case is likely to have far-reaching implications for the freedoms of speech, press and association.

The case, Carpenter v United States, arises out of the government’s prosecution of Timothy Carpenter for a series of armed robberies carried out in south-eastern Michigan and north-western Ohio several years ago. In the course of its investigation of the crimes, the government ordered Carpenter’s cellphone provider to turn over data it had collected relating to Carpenter’s movements. In response, the provider produced 186 pages listing every call that Carpenter had made over a 127-day period, as well as coordinates indicating where Carpenter had been at the beginning and end of each of those calls.

Importantly, it turned over these records even though the government had not obtained a warrant based on probable cause. Carpenter asked the court to suppress the government’s evidence under the fourth amendment, which protects the right to privacy.

To continue reading: Supreme court cellphone case puts free speech – not just privacy – at risk

A President’s War on the Media, by Thomas DiLorenzo

Which President waged the most virulent war on the media? That would be icon Abraham Lincoln, by far. From Thomas DiLorenzo at lewrockwell.com:

After CNN was forced to retract yet another fake news story about “Russian collusion” it did what all Leftists do when caught in a lie:  It played “victim.”  It did so by claiming that President Trump’s calling out of the fake story, which CNN now admits was a fake, was an attack on freedom of speech in America.  So, according to CNN, publishing fake “news” is free speech, while pointing out the truth is an attack on free speech.

To hammer home the point that it, CNN, is the nation’s protector of free speech, the network attempted to taunt the president on the Fourth of July by tweeting an inscription that is chiseled into a wall at the “Newseum” in Washington, D.C.  They apparently thought that this would be a death blow to the president, for the quote was from the god of the state, Abe Lincoln.  “Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe,” Abe supposedly said.  Yes, just let them “know” that Vladimir Putin personally hypnotized Donald Trump, turning him into a Manchurian candidate, and then rigged all the election machinery in the United States to assure his election.  They will then be “safe” to know that Hillary Clinton is their real president.

Unfortunately for CNN, the Lincoln quote is more fake news because the quote itself is a fake, as proven by several researchers and reported by The Federalist Web site.  How telling –and appropriate — that CNN and the “Newseum” invoke this fake Lincoln quote as their motto.  Lincoln was a tyrant and a dictator with regard to the media, shutting down over 300 opposition newspapers in the North during the War to Prevent Southern Independence and imprisoning their editors and owners without due process.  No other president has ever come close to being as big an enemy of freedom of the press. 

As historian Dean Sprague wrote in Freedom Under Lincoln, in a chapter entitled “The Policy of Repression,” the “first step” in Lincoln’s “program against the anti-war newspapers” in the Northern states “had to start with the muzzling of the New York press” (p. 142).  The New York papers “dominated much of the nation,” meaning that many other newspapers followed their lead in reporting the news and editorializing on it.  The Journal of Commerce was the most influential of the New York newspapers, and it published a list of over 100 other Northern newspapers that had editorialized against the war in early 1861.

To continue reading: A President’s War on the Media

The Triumph of James Comey, by Justin Raimondo

James Comey spouts his own unique brand of disinformation (lies) and nonsense. From Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com:

He’s the most powerful man in America

Since FBI Director James Comey has become a kind of arbiter of the political discourse – to say his pronouncements have been decisive would not, I think, be an overstatement – his appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee was much anticipated. As Hillary Clinton and her supporters continue to re-litigate the presidential election, blaming him for her defeat, how he would defend his decision to reveal that the FBI was investigating her private email server, and the possible unauthorized release of classified information, was the focus of much interest. And yet the really interesting aspects of his testimony had to do with two questions that, in a free society, would not normally be the domain of law enforcement: 1) What should be the nature of our relations with a foreign country, i.e. Russia? And 2) what is a legitimate journalistic enterprise?

The first question belongs in the realm of the State Department, the White House, and Congress: that is, unless having any sort of non-hostile relations with Russia have now become illegal. Given the current political atmosphere, one might well conclude that this is now the case, and that was certainly the tone of the questioning – and Comey’s answers – at the hearing. Leave it to Lindsey Graham to gin up a veritable orgy of Russia-bashing: after a series of questions about the investigation into alleged Russian “interference” in the election, he asked:

“GRAHAM: So what kind of threat do you believe Russia presents to our democratic process, given what you know about Russia’s behavior of late?

“COMEY: Well, certainly in my view, the greatest threat of any nation on earth, given their intention and their capability.

“GRAHAM: Do you agree that they did not change the actual vote tally, but one day they might?

On this last, Comey seemed to demur, but that such a question could even be asked unaccompanied by a chorus of laughter highlights the utter absurdity of the discourse in Washington. The very idea that any nation, anywhere on earth, represents a dire threat to our democratic process is itself absurd. After all, are Russian armies poised at the Canadian border, ready to take New York? To listen to our solons, assembled in solemn conclave, one would think it was the KGB, and not al-Qaeda, that blew up the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon on 9/11.

To continue reading: The Triumph of James Comey

They Said That? 4/28/17

Ron Paul and Daniel McAdams interview Julian Assange

Liberals Want To Kill Free Speech, So We Patriots Must Fight Back, by Kurt Schlichter

Those who would use violence and force to stifle others’ freedom of speech and the press  (including governments) had better except the same from their putative victims. From Kurt Schlichter on a guest post at theburningplatform.com:

Guest Post by Kurt Schlichter

Liberals Want To Kill Free Speech, So We Patriots Must Fight Back

Understand that if America is stupid enough to let liberals take power again, they will persecute and prosecute normal Americans like us who dare to dissent. That’s not a guess or a prediction – that’s a commitment they have made to their fascist followers. They’ve seen what the truth can do to their schemes. After 2016, there’s no way they are going to take a chance on another electoral rejection by us normals, so they don’t even pretend to support free speech anymore. It will be one gender neutral being-one vote, one more time, and then never again.

Hold on. That’s clearly nuts, right? This is obviously crazy talk that’s talking crazy, isn’t it? Don’t liberals love free speech?

No.

We know they don’t love free speech because they tell us they don’t, in both words and deeds. The whole free speech thing lost a lot of its luster for the libs when people like us decided to try it out. The liberals didn’t count on that – free speech was supposed to be their jam, a way to offend, annoy, and outrage us squares, to blow our bourgeois minds with their transgressive, no-holds-barred free thoughtery and critical thinkery. But they never intended for it to allow those banjo-strumming rubes living between I-5 and I-95 to express wrong thoughts and thereby win elections.

So now the progressives are trying to do something about it. Recently, every single Democrat voted to effectively repeal the First Amendment. You see, the words “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech” were too expansive for liberals’ tastes because they prevented Congress from making laws abridging the freedom of speech.

This creepy idiocy was in response to Citizens United, a Supreme Court case that, to people who actually believe in free speech and not liberal fascism, conforms to the First Amendment by telling the federal government that no, you can’t put people in jail for making a movie critical of Hillary Clinton.

To continue reading: Liberals Want To Kill Free Speech, So We Patriots Must Fight Back

Is Tolerance a One-Way Street? by Douglas Murray

It was easy to hold demonstrations, wave signs, and march arm-in-arm after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris two years ago. It is far more difficult to maintain a steadfast commitment to freedom of expression in the face of intimidation, political correctness, and terror. From Douglas Murray at gatestoneinstitute.org:

• When just about every other magazine in the free world fails to uphold the values of free speech and the right to caricature and offend, who could expect a group of cartoonists and writers who have already paid such a high price to keep holding the line of such freedoms single-handed?

• Most of the people who said they cared about the right to say what they wanted when they wanted, were willing to walk the walk — to walk through Paris with a pencil in the air. Or they were willing to talk the talk, proclaiming “Je Suis Charlie.” But almost no one really meant it.

• If President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel had really believed in standing up for freedom of expression, then instead of walking arm-in-arm through Paris together with such an inappropriate figure as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, they would have held up covers of Charlie Hebdo and said: “This is what a free society looks like and this is what we back: everyone, political leaders, gods, prophets, the lot can be satirised, and if you do not like it then you should hop off to whatever unenlightened hell-hole you dream of.”

The entire world press has internalised what happened at Charlie Hebdo and instead of standing united, has decided never to risk something like that ever happening to them again.

• For the last two years, we have learned for certain that any such tolerance is a one-way street. This new submission to Islamist terrorism is possibly why, in 2016, when an athlete with no involvement in politics, religion or satire was caught doing something that might have been seen as less than fully respectful of Islam, there was no one around to defend him.

To continue reading: Is Tolerance a One-Way Street?