Can anyone name even one individual right that the government has not rescinded and turned into a conditional privilege?
We no longer enjoy freedom of speech. Is it necessary to elaborate? At a time when a person must ask permission to be allowed to publicly (and peacefully) express dissatisfaction with the government? When the expression of certain views is sufficient legal warrant to provoke a “visit” – or worse – by armed men who are empowered to kidnap the speaker or writer? When the mere wearing of a T-shirt with “objectionable” slogans or images upon it is regarded by the law as sufficient warrant to “detain” (that is, forcibly assault) a person? What happened to “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting … the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”?
We are not at liberty to choose with whom we associate, even in private. Or do business with. We are subject to arrest and imprisonment if we decline to associate with persons the government decrees we must associate with, or do business without the requisite permissions (such as licenses) and according to the rules laid down by the state. If you are 17 years old, you must attend a government school. You are not at liberty to go to work and support yourself, if that is your wish. It is “against the law.”
Everything – just about – is either “against the law” or requires the state’s permission first.
Our right to be “secure in our persons and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures” is a nullity. There is no place – not even in our homes – that we are not subject to grotesquely unreasonable searches and seizures. Is it necessary to elaborate? At a time when people are being violated in the most degrading way (roadside digital inspection of their body cavities) under color of law? When what would be considered sexual assault if done by any Mere Mundane is sanctified as “reasonable” by the courts? At a time when every single phone call, every single e-mail, is recorded and analyzed by the government? This is “reasonable”? According to the government, which interprets its own powers to suit, it certainly is.
Once, we were free to possess and carry arms. The Second Amendment formally acknowledged this absolute right: “…shall not be infringed.” Is it necessary to catalog the infringements we suffer? “Infringe” has become as meaningless as “reasonable.” Or rather, they have both come to mean their opposites in practice. It is a crime in most states merely to carry a firearm not obviously visible (i.e., “concealed,” for which one must posses a permission slip). In some states – and the federal capital itself – it is a felony to possess a firearm, period. So much for “shall not be infringed.”
Americans are subject to being dragooned into the night, held without charge – for years – at the whim of the government. The fact that is has not (yet) been done on a large scale is not relevant. That fact is it could be, at any time – because the authority has been asserted and formalized into “the law” by executive fiat and court sanction (or refusal to not sanction). There is no appeal, no mechanism in law to protect the individual. Merely the hazy recollection that it didn’t used to be that way. Once that fades, the results will be predictable.
We are forced – under threat of lengthy incarceration - to provide evidence the government can and will use to prosecute us as “criminals.” Doubt it? Decline to provide the government with information regarding your business dealings, your assets, your salary – and see what happens.
The onetime right to a trial by jury has been end-run by “administrative” law. Pay up – or else.
So much for the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
We are allowed to own nothing of substance. Our homes and land are functionally owned by the state, which assess us rent in the form of property tax. Fail to pay the rent and you will quickly discover who owns “your” land.
Not even your physical person is your own property. The state owns you. It decrees you may not consume certain substance as this might harm its property. You may not mate or partner with another without permission – or only in certain “approved” ways. The children you produce are not yours to raise. They must be raised as the state decrees, properly “educated” in ways the state approves.
And the Ninth and Tenth Amendments? A sick joke.
What “rights” has the federal government not arrogated unto itself? It forcibly injects itself into the most mundane and minute affairs of individuals; most recently, it has asserted that each of us must purchase health insurance – or else – and will shortly assert its “right” to micromanage our actual “health,” to include our personal habits and recreations – very probably, the opinions we hold.
So much for our rights.
They may continue to exist, of course. But they are not respected.
Hobby Lobby is a much simpler and less important case than it’s been made out to be, for reasons the Court clearly spelled out today. Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate had to fall under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (without even getting to the First Amendment) because it didn’t show – couldn’t show – that there’s no other way of achieving its goal without violating religious beliefs. Moreover, the fact that a for-profit corporation is asserting the statute’s protections is of no moment because neither the corporate form nor the profit motive undermines RFRA’s solicitude for the rights of humans – including owners, officers, and shareholders. In short, the mandate fell because it was a rights-busting government compulsion that lacked sufficient justification. Nobody has been denied access to contraceptives and there’s now more freedom for all Americans to live their lives how they want, without checking their freedom at the office door.
Tom Udall (D-NM) and 42 other incumbent U.S. senators propose a Constitutional amendment with the following key provision: “To advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes, Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on – (1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; (2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates” (“Senate Democrats Begin Efforts to Amend Constitution,” June 6th).
Never mind that this amendment strikes at the heart of the First amendment values of freedom of speech and freedom of petition. Focus instead on the fact that, if ratified, this amendment would create far greater political inequality and eat like a cancer at electoral processes. It would do so by shielding incumbent politicians from competition.
Suppose that Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, and other of today’s successful automakers seek, and get, the power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to auto advertising. Do you think that these incumbent automakers - whose brands are currently established and well-known - would never succumb to the temptation to use this power to protect themselves from the competition of upstart automakers?
Would you take at face value all the fine rhetoric from these incumbent automakers about the need to protect members of the car-buying public from being overwhelmed and misled by expensive and glitzy ads? And would you be confident that allowing incumbent automakers to regulate spending on auto ads and on sales campaigns would improve the quality of competition among automakers and heighten these firms’ responsiveness to the ‘true’ demands of the car-buying public?
I suspect that most people would correctly see such an effort by incumbent automakers as being a scheme to restrict competition - a scheme that would benefit greedy incumbent automakers and make them less responsive to the general public. It’s astonishing, therefore, that so many people continue to believe that the very same such scheme by incumbent politicians is a noble endeavor to improve political competition - an endeavor that, we are unbelievably assured, will make politicians more responsive to the general public.
DOJ accelerates hunt for domestic terrorists
"Holder also noted that the task force will focus on individuals within our borders motivated by antigovernment sentiments…"
I wonder if these antigovernment extremists will be afforded any semblance of due process of law considering they’ll be the target of domestic counterterrorism efforts.
Love “your” government, or else.
The perception that invasive surveillance is confined only to a marginalised and deserving group of those “doing wrong” – the bad people – ensures that the majority acquiesces to the abuse of power or even cheers it on. But that view radically misunderstands what goals drive all institutions of authority. “Doing something wrong” in the eyes of such institutions encompasses far more than illegal acts, violent behaviour and terrorist plots. It typically extends to meaningful dissent and any genuine challenge. It is the nature of authority to equate dissent with wrongdoing, or at least with a threat. …
All of the evidence highlights the implicit bargain that is offered to citizens: pose no challenge and you have nothing to worry about. Mind your own business, and support or at least tolerate what we do, and you’ll be fine. Put differently, you must refrain from provoking the authority that wields surveillance powers if you wish to be deemed free of wrongdoing.
This … invites passivity, obedience and conformity. The safest course, the way to ensure being “left alone”, is to remain quiet, unthreatening and compliant.
Glenn Greenwald explains that, from Martin Luther King to Anonymous, the state targets dissenters not just “bad guys.” Don’t believe the argument that mass surveillance is only a problem for wrongdoers. Governments have repeatedly spied on anyone who challenges their power.
Files related to Cointelpro showed how the FBI had targeted political groups and individuals it deemed subversive and dangerous, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, black nationalist movements, socialist and communist organizations, anti-war protesters and various rightwing groups. The bureau had infiltrated them with agents who, among other things, attempted to manipulate members into agreeing to commit criminal acts so that the FBI could arrest and prosecute them.
Those revelations led to the creation of the Senate Church Committee, which concluded: “[Over the course of 15 years] the bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilate operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of first amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.”
These incidents were not aberrations of the era. During the Bush years, for example, documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed, as the group put it in 2006, “new details of Pentagon surveillance of Americans opposed to the Iraq war, including Quakers and student groups”. The Pentagon was “keeping tabs on non-violent protesters by collecting information and storing it in a military anti-terrorism database”. The evidence shows that assurances that surveillance is only targeted at those who “have done something wrong” should provide little comfort, since a state will reflexively view any challenge to its power as wrongdoing.
The opportunity those in power have to characterise political opponents as “national security threats” or even “terrorists” has repeatedly proven irresistible. In the past decade, the government, in an echo of Hoover’s FBI, has formally so designated environmental activists, broad swaths of anti-government rightwing groups, anti-war activists, and associations organised around Palestinian rights. Some individuals within those broad categories may deserve the designation, but undoubtedly most do not, guilty only of holding opposing political views. Yet such groups are routinely targeted for surveillance by the NSA and its partners. …
[G]overnment plans to monitor and influence internet communications and disseminate false information online have long been a source of speculation. The GCHQ documents show for the first time that these controversial techniques have moved from the proposal stage to implementation.
In 2012, in a proceeding straight out of the Inquisition, an Italian court convicted six scientists for providing “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” in the lead-up to the earthquake. Now, a philosophy professor says that case may provide a worthwhile example for the treatment of scientific dissenters—specifically, “climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.”
Writing for The Conversation, a publication geared to academics, Lawrence Torcello(pictured at right), a professor of philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, says the time for conversation is over.
The importance of clearly communicating science to the public should not be underestimated. Accurately understanding our natural environment and sharing that information can be a matter of life or death. When it comes to global warming, much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on. With such high stakes, an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.
Torcello then tries to parse the details of the earthquake case, saying, it was “actually about the failure of scientists to clearly communicate risks to the public.”
Even so, Torcello acknowledges the chilling effect of prosecuting scientists for not framing their public statements in a sufficiently prosecutor-friendly matter. Researchers might not try to warn anybody if they could face fines or prison time for being inexact, incomplete, or contradictory after the fact. He ultimately allows that he wouldn’t actually criminalize poor scientific communication—just anybody who might support dissenting scientists, or receive such support.
If those with a financial or political interest in inaction had funded an organised campaign to discredit the consensus findings of seismology, and for that reason no preparations were made, then many of us would agree that the financiers of the denialist campaign were criminally responsible for the consequences of that campaign. I submit that this is just what is happening with the current, well documented funding of global warming denialism….
We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent. The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.
If you’re trying to figure out how that doesn’t threaten the free exercise of speech, Torcello assures us, “We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions.”
So…You can voice a dissenting opinion, so long as you don’t benefit from it or help dissenters benefit in any way?
By the way, according to RIT, Torcello researches “the moral implications of global warming denialism, as well as other forms of science denialism.” Presumably, his job is a paid one. But this is OK, because…the majority of scientists agree with his views on the issue?
Let’s allow that they do—and that a majority of scientists agree about man-made climate change and a host of other issues. Just when does the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition meet to decide what is still subject to debate, and what is now holy writ? And is an effort to “undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus” always criminally negligent? Can it ever be simple scientific inquiry? Or even heroic?
Or maybe we just assume underhanded motives on the part of scientific outliers and their supporters once the committee has ruled.
Every political system is firmly grounded in lies, deceit, fraud, distortions, corruption, and other falsehoods and acts of dishonesty. Accordingly, it is the nature of such agencies to propagandize lies as truth, and to control the revelation of demonstrable truths by classifying otherwise embarrassing documents as “secret;” as well as using censorship and the threat of trials for treason. Like insects that prefer to live in the protective darkness beneath rocks, sunlight is most disruptive.
The American nation-state is firmly entrenched in this interconnected war against truth and insistence upon propagandized perversions of reality. Through mechanisms beyond the imagination of George Orwell, the NSA is now able to gather the most micro-detailed information about each of us. In order to maintain and extend its control over us, the state presumes itself entitled to know everything it wants to know about each person. At the same time, we are allowed to know only that which serves the state’s interests to have us know, employing its media sycophants to impart the party line.
The statists are well aware of just how liberating the free flow of ideas and information is to people. Gutenberg’s invention of movable type made possible decentralized expansion of the search for understanding. The Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Reformation, the Age of Reason, the Scientific Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution trace their ancestries to the enhanced capacities for creative people to synthesize knowledge with one another. Modern technologies – of which the Internet is the best known expression – are now extending such means to exponential dimensions.
While the wielders of state power insist on babbling their divisive, redistributionist bromides about egalitarianism, there is one form of “equality” that terrifies them: a world in which knowledge, and the intellectual skills of analysis, are shared equally by all. The specter of intelligent, informed minds, centrifuged across all mankind, would deprive the statists of their most valued quality: the arrogance interwoven into the fabric of their roles of philosopher-kings, armed with the coercive power of the state to enforce their self-serving visions upon the submissive collective of humanity.
One finds this fear of informed, self-directed, rational men and women expressed by such corporate-state enthusiasts as Hillary Clinton and Diane Feinstein. Clinton has long championed the idea of a “gatekeeper” for the Internet, to confine access to this medium only to writers approved by the ruling establishment! Feinstein has offered the proposition that the First Amendment protects only “legitimate journalists” (i.e., those persons who work on behalf of an existing member of the media). Knowing that established broadcasters and newspapers are already a part of the corporate-state order, she is eager to confine “truth”-telling to those under institutional control.
Those outside the stockade are to be subject to censorship; only licensed writers will be permitted. Expressing the arrogance of her elitist class, Feinstein asks does “this privilege [First Amendment protection is but a ‘privilege’ in her mind] apply to anyone? To a 17-year-old who drops out of high school, buys a website for $5, and starts a blog?” Her desire to restrict thought was reflected in a statement she made in China a number of years ago, in which she commented that she was more comfortable with Chinese reporters because “They just write down what we say.” Such compliant, dependent scribblers are less inclined to ask the kinds of questions that might be upsetting to corporate-state interests. More aggressive writers might want to inquire into how Feinstein and her husband have been able to use the powers of the nation-state to help amass their tens of millions of dollars of wealth!
Feinstein’s query raises another concern for the statists. School drop-outs are troublesome for the elitists, who insist upon compulsory school attendance as the primary tool with which to condition young minds in the conflict-driven, institutionally-directed, vertically-structured model of social organization. How can institutions become ends in themselves, their purposes to preempt our own, unless children grow up believing in both the necessity and propriety of living their lives in obedience to the philosopher-kings? To condition people in such a mindset is the raison d’etre of the government school system. Members of the power-elite are among the most vocal advocates for government schools, yet most enroll their children in private schools wherein they can better develop their minds for the day they assume their positions near the apex of the pyramid. Your children are expected to become drones – or drone operators – and for the teaching of such mechanistic skills the government schools are adequate.
The state’s war against truth and clear thinking continues apace. Diane Feinstein’s efforts to confine truth-telling to the establishment-certified and institutionally-employed are reinforced by unnamed persons within the Pentagon and the NSA who, perhaps idolizing Nazi chief-executioner Johann Reichart’s role in beheading Probst and the Scholls, have made such statements as “I would love to put a bullet in his [Ed Snowden’s] head.” “Treason,” to such people, has become any words or acts that discomfort the ruling classes or the hallowed institutions behind which they hide.
This is what statism inevitably produces: the thoroughly institutionalized mind. When the purposes of abstractions (e.g., the corporate-state) are accorded an importance that transcends the interests of real persons; when individuals are demeaned by such systems as “assets” or “citizens” or “collateral damage” or collectivized as “the masses,” it becomes easy for soulless institutional functionaries to treat men, women, and children in the most dehumanizing ways.
Whether it is noteworthy or only a matter of coincidence, each of the aforementioned instances of statist behavior is directed against the minds of those that the state will either control – if possible – or destroy– should less destructive measures fail. What greater symbolism of this ongoing war against the thinking of people than these: school systems that twist young minds to revere and obey institutional authorities; while the guillotine or a “bullet in the head” may await those who fail to maintain the assigned lockstep. With the human head as the target upon which the established order directs its destructive energies, the nature of the threat to all of mankind should be quite evident.
Very much worth your time.
[The NSA Director is] flat out admitting — as many have noted — that his pet cybersecurity bills are dead right now because of all of the Snowden leaks, showing just how abusive the NSA has been. And his answer to that is not to fix the NSA, but to pass bills to stifle the free press from reporting on NSA efforts, which he then thinks will allow the government to pass legislation like CISPA.
Mike Masnik for Techdirt, on NSA Director Kieth Alexander’s argument that the government needs to figure out a way to “handle media leaks.” (via hipsterlibertarian)
These documents were some of the ones that I found most disturbing pretty early on, because they talk about how the British Government, and this is a presentation made to the NSA and three other allies about how the British government and its intelligence agency the GCHQ does things like “false flag operations” as they call it, where they post very incriminating things to the internet and then they attribute it falsely to someone whose reputation that they are trying to smear. Or they notify their friends or family or they disseminate the disruptive information about them.
They use “honey traps,” which is the use of sexually appealing women (whether fictionalized or real) to lure their targets into compromising situations. And it’s not just the normal spy craft. They’re [not just] doing it to the leaders of hostile countries, to the military or intelligence officials. It’s directed at people who are just dissidents. People with the group “Anonymous,” people they call “hacktivists,” and normal, criminal suspects that have been charged with no crimes.
They infiltrate online communities and intentionally disseminate deception throughout the internet, making the internet really an untrustworthy place to be. …
One of the things that the Obama administration and its apologists love to say in response to some of the NSA reporting that we are doing, is that there is no evidence of any sort of political targeting like there was in the 60s and 70s, and that is absolute false. Not only is the new story that I described an example of that, but so too is the one that you just referenced where they were monitoring people who visited the Wikileaks website which could be journalists, [this editor], supporters, people who are whistleblowers who wanted to give information. They used their access to fiber optic cables to collect very invasive information, including their IP address, which can enable the government to individually identify someone. You have groups like Wikileaks and Anonymous and hacktivists, and we published a story a couple months ago about using the porn habits of people that the government deems “radicals” to try and destroy their reputation.
In every era when the government targets dissidents, those dissidents are never popular. So a lot of people don’t like Wikileaks or hacktivists. Back in the 60s and 70s people didn’t like various civil rights leaders, they didn’t like anti-war groups. But the point is that you should not have the government being able to destroy people using covert means. That is why we have due process. There is a distinction, they are only able to punish people who they have charged and given a fair trial to and convicted.
Over the past four years, one worrying trend has remained consistent: governments continue to ask us to remove political content. Judges have asked us to remove information that’s critical of them, police departments ask us to take down videos or blogs that shine a light on their conduct, and local institutions like town councils don’t want people to be able to find information about their decision-making processes. These officials often cite defamation, privacy, and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services.
Over the past four years, one worrying trend has remained consistent: governments continue to ask us to remove political content. Judges have asked us to remove information that’s critical of them, police departments ask us to take down videos or blogs that shine a light on their conduct, and local institutions like town councils don’t want people to be able to find information about their decision-making processes.
These officials often cite defamation, privacy, and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services.
From January to June 2013, the search giant received 3,846 government requests to remove content from its search services, which represents a 68% increase over the second half of 2012. The United States made 545 requests detailing 3,887 items. Only Turkey has made more such requests.
It’s hardly news that the Obama administration is intensely and, in many respects, unprecedentedly hostile toward the news-gathering process. Even the most Obama-friendly journals have warned of what they call ”Obama’s war on whistleblowers”. James Goodale, the former general counsel of the New York Times during its epic fights with the Nixon administration, recently observed that “President Obama wants to criminalize the reporting of national security information” and added: “President Obama will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom.”
Still, a new report released today by the highly respected Committee to Protect Journalists - its first-ever on press freedoms in the US - powerfully underscores just how extreme is the threat to press freedom posed by this administration. Written by former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr., the report offers a comprehensive survey of the multiple ways that the Obama presidency has ushered in a paralyzing climate of fear for journalists and sources alike, one that severely threatens the news-gathering process.
The first sentence: “In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press.” Among the most shameful aspects of the Obama record:
Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. Still more criminal investigations into leaks are under way. Reporters’ phone logs and e-mails were secretly subpoenaed and seized by the Justice Department in two of the investigations, and a Fox News reporter was accused in an affidavit for one of those subpoenas of being ‘an aider, abettor and/or conspirator’ of an indicted leak defendant, exposing him to possible prosecution for doing his job as a journalist. In another leak case, a New York Times reporter has been ordered to testify against a defendant or go to jail.”
… The report ends by noting the glaring irony that Obama aggressively campaigned on a pledge to usher in The Most Transparent Administration Ever™. Instead, as the New Yorker’s investigative reporter Jane Mayer recently said about the Obama administration’s attacks: “It’s a huge impediment to reporting, and so chilling isn’t quite strong enough, it’s more like freezing the whole process into a standstill.”
Back in 2006, back when I was writing frequently about the Bush administration’s attacks on press freedom, the focus was on mere threats to take some of these actions, and that caused severe anger from vocal progressives. Now, as this new report documents, we have moved well beyond the realm of mere threats into undeniable reality, and the silence is as deafening as the danger is pronounced.
How can these Obama-supporters who hated Bush repeatedly excuse all the things they once abhorred? There doesn’t seem to be a limit to what some of them will condone so long as it’s one of their own calling the shots.
Despite the fact that he’s a Gator and I’m a ‘Cane, I experience no Schadenfreude at the wanton abuse of power by the state.
His biggest mistake was not oinking.
It’s an open secret in Hollywood that before the MPAA reviews many movies, the Pentagon does. David Robb documents the practice in his book Operation Hollywood. Whenever movie producers want to use Pentagon equipment: helicopters, bases, submarines, etc. they send a request to the Pentagon, along with five copies of the script. The Pentagon replies with proposed changes to the script, which the producer must either accept, or forgo the equipment (which disinclines studios to finance the film, since it entails extra costs). Then, while the movie is shot, a “minder” hangs along, to ensure the director sticks to the script. Final approval comes from Pentagon brass who pre-screen and censor the film. …
Movies that garnered approval include Pearl Harbor, Top Gun and GoldenEye. Movies that had to due without include Forrest Gump, Platoon, Independence Day and Thin Red Line. Among the taboo subjects for the Pentagon: anything that will decrease recruiting, alcohol or drug use, aliens overpowering the military or any military personnel depicted in a negative light. Forrest Gump failed to procure funds for implying that the Army was staffed by “soldiers of limited intelligence” and for the scene in which Hanks moons the President. In the original GoldenEye script a Navy Admiral sells state secrets, the final version, it’s now a Frenchman. …
The Pentagon claims it aims to “portray the military as it actually is,” but don’t planes sometimes have technical difficulties? Doesn’t torture sometimes lead to bad information? Don’t soldiers come home with post-traumatic stress because the enemies are human, not vague abstractions? Does the Pentagon truly want to “accurately portray” history? Let’s examine two cases studies. The first is the 2000 movie, Thirteen Days, in which the military brass urges President Kennedy to engage Cuba militarily. David Robb recalls that Pentagon pushed the producers to tone down the implications, but they refused and went without military assistance – a risky move since, “most studio heads tell their producers, ‘We’re not going to make this film unless we get military assistance, because it would be too expensive. So you’d better make sure the script conforms to what they want.’” One such case is Charlie Wilson’s War, the movie about Charlie Wilson’s attempts to aid the Mujahedeen during our proxy war with Russia in Afghanistan. In the original script, says Matthew Alford, in an interview with Al Jazeera [30:00] “there is a very clear link between the U.S. arming the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the causes of 9/11. Now, we know from a CIA advisor who was on set, he says ‘we deliberately made sure we excised that film.’” I asked Alford, author of Reel Time: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy, whether the Pentagon’s thumbs down had ever silenced a movie entirely. He cited Countermeasures, a 1994 movie that requested an aircraft carrier but was turned down because, “There’s no reason for us to denigrate the White House or remind the public of the Iran-Contra affair.” As to the “accurate portrayal” question, he replied, “Since when was it ‘realistic’ for the US military to go to war against Transformers?”
The CIA has recently gotten into the racket. The Los Angeles Times reports “The CIA has kept an entertainment liaison on staff only since 1996. At that point, the Cold War had ended, and the agency was fighting for its budget and its existence on Capitol Hill. The new mission was clear: to overcome the CIA’s image in popular entertainment as incompetent, evil or rife with rogue employees.” Bill Harlow, the CIA public affairs chief is quoted saying, “I made that a big priority, and we did a lot more with Hollywood than ever before.” Tricia Jenkins reports in her book The CIA in Hollywood that the CIA was “influenced” the production of Argo, which is why the movie is essentially an ad for the CIA. She reports that the underlying theme- that the public never finds about the CIA’s successes and only its failures- is one of the narratives that the CIA constantly encourages producers and directors to relate.
Every time I look at this young man’s photo, my heart breaks apart for him and his family:
Cameron D’Ambrosio should not be in handcuffs. He should not be in a court room. He should not have been arrested, and he damn well sure should not have been accused of Communicating a Terrorist Threat, or threatened with 20 years in prison for making what amounts to poor word choices.
This entire case is shot through with injustice:
Before charges were even formally filed, local newspapers were already posting pictures from Cam’s facebook and pointing to “disturbing” posts like “Fuck politics. Fuck Obama. Fuck the government!” and “satanic” imagery (like some image from a metal band’s poster.) All of this is free speech that is 100% protected by the 1st Amendment.
And then there’s this:
Fox News went so far as to say that Cam’s facebook profile had images that they “couldn’t show on TV.” They and other media outlets frequently and intentionally printed only a small section of the lyrics that Cam was arrested for allegedly writing, and took them out of context to make rap metaphors sound like a real threat.
The media printed:
“(Expletive) a boston bominb wait till u see the (expletive) I do, I’ma be famous”
The actual line is:
“(Expletive) a boston bominb wait till u see the (expletive) I do, I’ma be famous rapping”
Notice something? The context completely changes the meaning of the line. Suddenly something that sounds like a threat of violence is clearly just bragging about how good Cammy Dee is going to be in the rap game. Last we checked, teenage dreams of grandeur were not a crime.
Such omissions are scandalous. You can see one example here (they also incorrectly stated that Cameron pleaded “guilty.” He pled “not guilty.”). The source above also reported that Cameron was arrested on a previous assault and battery charge, but neglected to mention that those charges were later dismissed.
This case involves a number of horrifying breaches of journalistic ethics, paired with a complete, utter failure to exercise prosecutorial discretion. A young 18-year old man with his whole life ahead of him may spend the next 20 years of his life in prison for doing nothing more than posting uncouth status updates on his Facebook page. As Rob D’Ovidio, a criminal justice professor at Drexel University, said recently:
When I was young, calling a bomb threat to your high school because you didn’t want to go to school that day was treated with a slap on the wrist. Try that nowadays and you’re going to prison, no question about it. They are taking it more seriously now[.]
And then there’s this gem from the local police chief:
“There are no more threats that are high school pranks,” said Joseph Solomon, police chief, during a press conference Thursday afternoon. “If they’re thinking that way, they need to get their heads into 2013.”
This is the incarceration nation in motion. The fear of legitimate threats is used to extend the scope of punitive executive scrutiny to cases that otherwise would’ve been dealt with outside the criminal justice system. Stupid mistakes and ill-timed remarks become serious felonies with decades in prison as the penalty.
Cases like this highlight the need for people to push back against the overcriminalization of America. We need to stop sending our kids to prison for dumb mistakes. We need to stop traumatizing 18-year olds by making them do the perp walk, and then telling them they’re facing 20 years in prison for being oafish online. None of this is necessary. All of it is unjust, improper, and counterproductive.
[I]t is remarkable how media reactions to civil liberties assaults are shaped almost entirely by who the victims are. For years, the Obama administration has been engaged in pervasive spying on American Muslim communities and dissident groups. It demanded a reform-free renewal of the Patriot Act and the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, both of which codify immense powers of warrantless eavesdropping, including ones that can be used against journalists. It has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers under espionage statutes as all previous administrations combined, threatened to criminalize WikiLeaks, and abused Bradley Manning to the point that a formal UN investigation denounced his treatment as “cruel and inhuman”.
But, with a few noble exceptions, most major media outlets said little about any of this, except in those cases when they supported it. It took a direct and blatant attack on them for them to really get worked up, denounce these assaults, and acknowledge this administration’s true character. That is redolent of how the general public reacted with rage over privacy invasions only when new TSA airport searches targeted not just Muslims but themselves: what they perceive as “regular Americans”. Or how former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman - once the most vocal defender of Bush’s vast warrantless eavesdropping programs - suddenly began sounding like a shrill and outraged privacy advocate once it was revealed that her own conversations with Aipac representatives were recorded by the government.
Leave to the side how morally grotesque it is to oppose rights assaults only when they affect you. The pragmatic point is that it is vital to oppose such assaults in the first instance no matter who is targeted because such assaults, when unopposed, become institutionalized. Once that happens, they are impossible to stop when - as inevitably occurs - they expand beyond the group originally targeted. We should have been seeing this type of media outrage over the last four years as the Obama administration targeted non-media groups with these kinds of abuses (to say nothing of the conduct of the Bush administration before that). It shouldn’t take an attack on media outlets for them to start caring this much.