SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE ENDORSES AMENDMENT TO ABRIDGE FREE SPEECH

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Written by Jack Kenny | The New American

A proposed constitutional amendment to abridge the freedom of speech received the endorsement of the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 10-8 vote Thursday in an effort to overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission and McCutcheon v. FEC.

The 2010 Citizens United ruling rejected on First Amendment grounds restrictions in the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act of 2002 on spending for political advertising. In this year’s McCutcheon decision, the high court ruled that limits on how much a donor may contribute in aggregate to candidates for federal office, political parties, and political action committees are also violations of the First Amendment. Both decisions were by 5-4 votes of the justices, with the more conservative Republican appointees voting to strike down the restrictions and the liberal justices, appointed by Democratic presidents, voting to uphold them. Similarly, Thursday’s Judiciary Committee vote was strictly along party lines, with all 10 of the committee’s Democrats voting for the amendment and all eight of its Republican members voting against.

The Democrats voting for the proposed amendment were Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Dianne Feinstein (California), Charles Schumer (New York), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Sheldon Whitehead (Rhode Island), Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken (Minnesota), Christopher Coons (Delaware), Richard Blumenthal (Minnesota), and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii). Republicans voting against it were Charles Grassley (Iowa), Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee (Utah); Ted Cruz and John Cornyn (Texas), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Jeff Sessions (Alabama), and Jeff Flake (Arizona).

The amendment, as  proposed in Senate Joint Resolution 19, says in Section 1:

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; and

(2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.

Section 2 gives the same power to the States. And just as McCain-Feingold exempted media corporations from federal regulation, S.J. Res. 19 states in Section 3: “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press.”

Freedom of speech is a different matter, however. The Citizens United case challenged the McCain-Feingold law over restrictions that prevented the Citizens United organization from broadcasting ads about a negative documentary it had produced about Hillary Clinton when the U.S. senator and former first lady was a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. The law banned independent expenditure ads (those not sponsored by or coordinated with any campaign) about any candidate with 60 days of a primary or 90 days of a general election. Citizens United wanted to run its ads within 60 days of the New Hampshire presidential primaries on January 8, 2008.

In ruling the ban unconstitutional, the majority of the court upheld the freedom of speech provision of the First Amendment, which states: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”

Defenders of the ban claimed that elections are being corrupted by the influence of inordinate amounts of money. Opponents argued that organizations such as Citizens United, a non-profit corporation, allowed citizens to exercise their free speech right by pooling their resources to present arguments about candidates, campaigns, and issues during an election contest. The ban on such ads in the weeks and months immediately preceding an election prohibited such advertising at the very time the public was paying most attention to the campaigns. By exempting media corporations from the ban, the law allowed the politicians and the media organs to frame the issues and debates in while shutting out independent citizens and organizations during the most critical period in election campaigns.

During the original arguments before the Supreme Court, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart said the government would even have the power to ban books that advocated the election or defeat of a candidate if the books were published or distributed by a corporation or union.

Organizations as diverse as National Right to Life, the American Civil Liberties, and the National Rifle Association opposed the law as a violation of freedom of speech.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), the prime sponsor of the resolution, hailed the Judiciary Committee’s endorsement Thursday in a statement following the vote:

Momentum for meaningful campaign finance reform continues to build as Americans in New Mexico and all around the country call on their elected leaders to get money out of politics and give elections back to the people. Today’s committee approval of my constitutional amendment is an important step in answering their call.

Though Udall has 45 Senate cosponsors, chances of the measure becoming the 28th Amendment to the Constitution appear remote, since it would have to be approved by 2/3 of each house of Congress and ratified by 3/4, or 38, of the states. So far 16 states have formally notified Congress of their support for such an amendment. It appears unlikely that there would be a 2/3 vote even in the Democratic Senate, however, or that it would even come to a vote in the House, where Republicans are in the majority.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee accused the Democrats of using the resolution as a campaign issue for this fall’s congressional election to stir up resentment against wealthy donors who contribute to Republican campaigns. While Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other Democrats have frequently inveighed against the billionaire Koch brothers over their bankrolling of conservative organizations supporting Republican candidates and causes, Republicans were quick to point out that wealthy investors such as George Soros and Tom Steyer have done the same for left-leaning Democratic groups.

“We want to ban the billionaires on both sides of the aisle,” countered Schumer. “The Soroses and the Steyers will be just as banned as the Kochs and the others.” Republicans argued that that simply proved that the proposed amendment would jeopardize the free speech rights of people on all points of the political spectrum.

“The plain text of this amendment would allow Congress to ban books, to ban movies and to silence the NAACP,” said Cruz. Durbin told Cruz the NAACP supports the amendment.

The debate was a carry-over from last month’s hearing when the resolution was introduced. Committee Chairman Leahy opened that hearing with a statement describing the proposed amendment as an effort to “repair the damage done by a series of flawed Supreme Court decisions that overturned longstanding precedent and eviscerated campaign finance laws.”

Grassley the committee’s ranking Republican, vehemently disagreed. “It’s outrageous,” he argued, “to say that limiting speech is necessary for democracy.” Flake of Arizona agreed with his Iowa colleague, while expressing confidence that the measure would not get the needed 2/3 support from the full Senate.

“Putting Congress in charge of who gets free speech is about the worst idea I’ve heard in a long, long time,” Flake said. “So let them bring it to the floor.”

FIRST AND FOURTH AMENDMENTS FACE SUPREME COURT RULINGS

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Written by  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D. | The New American

As The New American reported Saturday, the Supreme Court has announced plans to publish rulings in several key constitutional cases. Every Monday in June, the schedule reports, will see the release of one or more decisions.

One of the cases of concern to civil libertarians and constitutionalists involves the Obama administration claiming the authority to search and seize cellphone records without a warrant, despite the protections against such government intrusion provided by the Fourth Amendment.

The Washington Post published the following summary of the case of U.S. v. Wurie:

In 2007, the police arrested a Massachusetts man who appeared to be selling crack cocaine from his car. The cops seized his cellphone and noticed that it was receiving calls from “My House.” They opened the phone to determine the number for “My House.” That led them to the man’s home, where the police found drugs, cash and guns.

The defendant was convicted, but on appeal he argued that accessing the information on his cellphone without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Earlier this year, the First Circuit Court of Appeals accepted the man’s argument, ruling that the police should have gotten a warrant before accessing any information on the man’s phone.

The Appeals Court ruling doesn’t sit well with a president who considers the Constitution irrelevant and who is accustomed to the court’s collusion in the federal government’s continuing effort to revoke all civil liberties.

Of specific interest in the Wurie case is the government’s claim that a cellphone is no different from any other items a suspect might be carrying that are subject to search by law enforcement, “including notebooks, calendars, and pagers,” the Post points out.

One of these things is not like the others, however. Today, a cellphone is as much a personal computer as a telephone and most people carry things inside their smartphones that have not been placed within the scope of acceptable searches: “our e-mails, text messages, photographs, browser histories and more,” the Post explains.

Should the Obama administration receive a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court, one that holds that police do not need a specific — constitutionally qualifying — warrant to search a suspect’s cellphone, the threat to the Fourth Amendment and individual liberty is incalculable.

For example, a person arrested on a bench warrant for failing to appear for a hearing would have his entire life subject to search and seizure if he was carrying his smartphone at the time he was taken into police custody. Then, the photos, texts, social media posts, and photos stored on that phone would come under the scrutiny of government and the data could be collected and saved in order to blackmail the citizen turned suspect.

In light of the broad discretion granted to government and law enforcement by the Supreme Court in the 1979 case of Smith v. Maryland, police (and those to whom the information gleaned from the cellphone was shared) could do whatever they deem “reasonable” with regard to the information obtained from the warrantless search of the cellphone.

In the case of Smith v. Maryland, the court held that “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.”

The court in that case ruled that if someone is talking to another person by way of a medium provided by a third-party (in the Smith case it was a telephone company), both parties must expect that the “intermediary” will have access to the content of the communication.

Regarding the telephone company, the court explained that when a person uses a telephone, he “voluntarily convey[s] numerical information to the telephone company and ‘expose[s]’ that information to its equipment in the ordinary course of business.”

Not surprisingly, the Obama administration in its brief filed in the Wurie case references the Smith case. The government says Smith supports its position that there is a reduced expectation of privacy regarding the contents of a cellphone.

The upshot of Wurie is that it is just another piece of evidence of the president’s pursuit of a country where citizens are nothing but future suspects and where privacy and civil liberties are defined not by the Constitution, but by the federal government.

From the NSA and Homeland Security, to the U.S. Postal Service and the IRS, the wall of protection provided by the Fourth Amendment is being demolished and the government given life by the Constitution is now on the verge of patricide.

Notably, the Cato Institute predicts that the Supreme Court will find in favor of the federal government, although insisting “the justices are extremely wary of pronouncing legal rules that could be rendered obsolete or unworkable as newer technology develops.”

The last of the cases we will outline concerns one the most fundamental rights protected by the First Amendment — the right to the free exercise of religion.

Two cases challenging the contraception mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) avers that the plaintiffs’ religious freedoms are being violated by forcing them to offer free (or heavily subsidized) access to contraceptives, including those that induce abortion.

One of the individual plaintiffs challenging the Obama administration’s coercive contraceptive statute reveals the real danger to liberty posed by the provision.

“With this mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act, the government is not only violating our religious beliefs; they are also taking it upon themselves to tell us what the boundaries of those religious beliefs are,” states Father Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. “It is not up to the government to tell us when our conscience hurts; on the contrary, it’s up to us as believers to tell the government.”

The two cases whose decisions will be handed down are Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores. The legal history of those two cases was provided by The New American late last year:

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has ruled that the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, a Mennonite-owned company, must comply with the Health and Human Services mandate that compels companies to pay for drugs that may cause abortions. The ruling was handed down in a 2-1 decision asserting that the Mennonite faith of the company’s owners may not prohibit the company from complying with the mandate.

And:

In [September 2012], Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a privately held retail chain, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, opposing the HHS “preventive services” mandate, which forces the Christian-owned-and-operated business to provide, without co-pay, the “morning after pill” and “week after pill” in their health insurance plan.

People of faith now wait to see which side the Supreme Court will support: the side that believes the federal government can impose immoral mandates on the mass of citizens regardless of their religious principles, or the side that believes that the government has no authority to encroach upon one of society’s most sacrosanct rights — the right to exercise one’s religious faith free from federal dictates.

Strangely, some still argue that when the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of a federal act, there remains no recourse and the issue is settled once and for all.

In light of recent decisions by “conservatives” on the Supreme Court in the ObamaCare case, it is no wonder that many Americans doubt that states have a right to nullify a congressional act in the wake of a Supreme Court decision.

Thomas Jefferson had something to say in the matter. In 1804, he wrote that giving the Supreme Court power to declare unconstitutional acts of the legislature or executive “would make the judiciary a despotic branch.” He noted that “nothing in the Constitution” gives the Supreme Court that right.

In this Mexican standoff of fundamental liberty, Supreme Court, and federal government, the last man standing is the people acting in their collective political capacity as states.

Even Abraham Lincoln recognized the lack of constitutional authority for the Supreme Court’s assumption of the role of ultimate arbiter of an act’s conformity with the Constitution.

Lincoln said that if the Supreme Court were afforded the power to declare whether an act of the federal government was constitutional, “the people will have ceased to be their own masters, having to that extent resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”

Renowned constitutional scholar Von Holtz explained the error in accepting the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of constitutional fidelity. “Moreover, violations of the Constitution may happen and the injured cannot, whether states or individuals, obtain justice through the court. Where the wrongs suffered are political in origin the remedies must be sought in a political way,” he wrote.

He continued, regarding this “aristocracy of the robe,” “That our national government, in any branch of it, is beyond the reach of the people; or has any sort of ‘supremacy’ except a limited measure of power granted by the supreme people is an error.”

How can anyone read these statements and honestly conclude that any branch of the federal government is intended to be the surveyor of the boundaries of its own power?

Every department of the federal government was created by the Constitution — therefore, by the states — and has no natural sovereignty. No branch can define its own authority. Such a thought is ridiculous and contrary to any theory of popular sovereignty ever proposed. If courts, Congress, or presidents had such power, it would make them judge, jury, and executioner in every case in which their own act exceeding constitutional authority is at bar.

Monday, June 2, constitutionalists will witness how far the Supreme Court is willing to go in joining the unholy alliance formed to obliterate constitutional protections of fundamental liberty.

SENATE DEMS TAKE AIM AT FIRST AMENDMENT

Written by Jack Kenny | The New American

Democrats in the U.S. Senate are planning a vote sometime this year on a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn two U.S. Supreme Court decisions on campaign spending, The Hill reported Wednesday. Legislation sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) calls for amending the Constitution to negate high court rulings in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission and McCutcheon v. FEC.

In its 2010 Citizens United decision, the court ruled in favor of a non-profit organization that had sought to advertise its unfavorable documentary film about Hillary Clinton shortly before the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries of 2008, when then-Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.) was a candidate for her party’s nomination for president. The court struck down provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that prohibited independent expenditure ads that mention a candidate within 30 days of a primary or 90 days of a general election in which that candidate is running. By a 5-4 vote, the justices declared that the freedom of speech guarantee of the First Amendment prohibits restrictions on expenditures by individuals or corporations, including non-profit corporations.

In last month’s McCutcheon decision, five justices ruled against limits on how much a donor may spend in total in contributions to a number of candidates in any year’s federal elections.

“The Supreme Court is trying to take this country back to the days of the robber barons, allowing dark money to flood our elections,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in announcing the amendment plan. “That needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.” Schumer predicted that the vote would take place by year’s end, and he called on Republicans to join with Democrats in supporting the amendment so “the wealthy can’t drown out middle-class voices in our Democracy.”

Udall’s bill calls for an amendment that would authorize both Congress and state legislatures to enact limits on fundraising and spending for and by candidates for federal office and on independent expenditures by outside groups. It would deny the judiciary power to overturn such legislation. If passed by two thirds of each house of Congress, the measure would have to be ratified by three fourths of the states to become an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is unlikely to survive the first of those tests however, since congressional Republicans generally oppose campaign finance restrictions.

The First Amendment states unequivocally that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” In the Citizens United and the McCutcheon rulings, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the free speech limitations enacted by Congress serve a compelling government interest by limiting the corrupting influence of money in politics.

Concerning another legislative proposal threatening the freedom of speech, a Boston Herald editorial recently took Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) to task over Markey’s proposed “Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014,” a measure the Herald described as “a frankly chilling proposition.” The bill would require an obscure federal agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, to report to Congress on “the use of telecommunications … to advocate and encourage violent acts and the commission of crimes of hate.” Noting that authority already exists to prosecute threats, the Herald warned that under Markey’s bill, “new government hall monitors” would determine “what qualifies as impermissible speech” and then recommend to Congress steps that would be, in the language of the bill, “appropriate and necessary to address such use of telecommunications.” Such actions must be, the bill says, “consistent with the First Amendment.” The Herald, among others, is more than a little skeptical about that assurance.

“And for the life of us,” the editorial proclaimed, “we can’t fathom any further government limit on Internet postings or talk radio callers that could be structured to protect an American’s right to free expression.” To civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silvergate the bill is “worse than merely silly. It is dangerous…. It is not up to Sen. Markey, nor to the federal government, to define for a free people what speech is, and is not, acceptable.”

Now the Massachusetts’ junior U.S. senator, Markey, 67, served for more than 26 years in the U.S. House before winning a special election last June to fill the unexpired term of Sen. John Kerry, who had resigned from the Senate to become the U.S. Secretary of State. Markey is an Army veteran and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College and a doctorate from the Boston College Law School. Somehow, with all that education and experience, the senator still does not comprehend that “Congress shall make no law” abridging the freedom of speech means that Congress shall make no law that abridges the freedom of speech. Perhaps he has been so busy preparing and promoting unconstitutional legislation that he hasn’t had time to read the Bill of Rights lately — or even have an aide brief him on it.

NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ‘THE GREATEST ENEMY OF PRESS FREEDOM’ IN A GENERATION

pressconferencePresident Obama Holds a Press Conference

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By Brendan Bordelon | Politico

New York Times reporter James Risen called the Obama administration “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation” on Friday, explaining that the White House seeks to control the flow of information and those who refuse to play along “will be punished.”

Poynter reports that Risen made the remarks while speaking at Sources and Secrets conference — a meeting of journalism , communication and government professionals held in New York City. The foreign policy reporter, who is currently fighting a fierce court battle with the federal government over his protection of a confidential source, warned that press freedom is under serious attack in today’s America.

In a speech kicking off the conference, Risen claimed that the Obama administration wants to “narrow the field of national security reporting” and “create a path for accepted reporting.” Those who stray from that path, he cautioned, “will be punished.”

The result is a “de facto Official Secrets Act,” Risen explained, making the current White House “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.” And the media has been “too timid” in pushing back against the onslaught.

Some of that timidity was on display at the conference. Jeffrey Toobin, a writer for The New Yorker, denied that any constitutional protections for his profession even existed. “It won’t take me long to alienate everyone in the room,” he declared. “For better or worse, it has been clear there is no journalistic privilege under the First Amendment.”

Robert Litt, the administration’s top lawyer for the national intelligence community, agreed with that statement. At the same conference, he likened reporting on national security leaks to drunk driving, arguing that we ban the practice despite the fact that there isn’t always a victim.

“Not every drunk driver causes a fatal accident,” he explained, “but we ban drunk driving because it increases the risk of accidents. In the same way, we classify information because of the risk of harm, even if no harm actually can be shown in the end from any particular disclosure.”

BIG BROTHER CENSORING FREE SPEECH ON YOUTUBE

Infowars.com

Alex is joined by video activist Mark Dice to discuss the bombshell news that his private YouTube channel was shut down by Nanny State “Super Flaggers” in response to his anti-establishment truth telling videos showing the continued dumbing down of the public at large and the effort to convince them that rights should be revoked.

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YOUTUBE CENSORS MAJOR ANTI-OBAMA CHANNEL

Mark Dice’s channel shut down days after governments given powers to flag “extremist” content

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com

UPDATE: About 3 hours after this article was posted and following a wave of public pressure, Mark Dice’s channel was restored by YouTube.

A major anti-Obama YouTube channel with 55 million views was shut down yesterday just days after a new policy went into effect handing governments the power to flag “extremist” content on the video sharing website.

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Media commentator and activist Mark Dice, whose channel had 55 million views and 265,000 subscribers, had his account suspended yesterday for what YouTube described as “severe terms of service violations”. The channel was not deleted due to copyright issues.

The most popular videos on Dice’s channel lambasted supporters of Barack Obama. Dice had built up a reputation for his ‘man on the street’ videos which featured him getting Obama supporters to sign petitions that called for a number of insane proposals, like putting gun owners in concentration camps, killing newborn babies, repealing the first amendment to silence criticism of Obama, and granting Obama immunity from all crimes.

After Dice made a video drawing attention to the censorship on his back-up channel, that too was deleted despite having zero strikes against it. The channel was subsequently restored the next day, but Dice’s main channel remains suspended. Attempts to get an explanation for why the channel was deleted have proven fruitless.

Dice’s YouTube channel was also deleted after parent company Google gave some 200 government and police organizations “super flagger” powers, enabling them to flag up to 20 videos for review and possible removal.

YouTube routinely censors content in response to requests from governments and law enforcement authorities.

As we reported in 2011, demands to remove information, including videos containing “government criticism,” are increasing year upon year.

YouTube complies with the majority of the requests, including the removal of videos which merely show political demonstrations.

“YouTube occasionally receives legal complaints from governments around the world to block content on our site. After a review of the legal complaint and the content at issue, YouTube may block specific content in order to comply with local laws in certain countries,” states the company’s disclaimer.

Google owner Eric Schmidt is very close to the Obama White House, which is why many are uncomfortable with him being in charge of YouTube, which has grown into a massive platform for anti-Obama sentiment.

Schmidt has been a major donor to Obama’s two presidential campaigns and served as an informal advisor during Obama’s 2008 White House run. After his success in 2012, Obama even offered Schmidt a major cabinet post.

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MARK DICE IS BACK ON YOUTUBE AFTER ALL VIDEOS DELETED AND CHANNEL SHUT DOWN IN CENSORSHIP ATTEMPT

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND THE NATIONAL SURVEILLANCE STATE

Major Media “Rallies” In New York To Urge Press Freedom From Government Spies and Protection for Sources’’

By Danny Schechter | Global Research

The term “spring offensive” may to be out of favor in the media, but more than 50 organizations endorsed a forum this past Friday with some of the media’s best known editorial heavyweights, to discuss the most serious crisis journalistic freedom has faced in decades—a deepening collision over leaks with what has become a national surveillance State.

Sponsored by the Long Island University, and the prestigious Polk Awards, it was held in the bowels of the mainstream media—at the posh Times Center in the New York Times Headquarters. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger was present, as was Jill Abramson, the Executive Editor. She spoke on a panel challenging a securocrat who called on the media to be more “humble.”

She was there primarily to rally support for an earlier speaker, investigative reporter James Risen of the Times, who is refusing to reveal his sources and has now been told by the Courts he has no first amendment right to do so.

His next step could be a jail sentence as several speakers denounced the Obama Administration for being anti-press. It has brought and threatened more prosecutions under the terms of the Espionage Act of 1917 than earlier Administrations.

Also speaking out was Katrina van den Heuvel, editor of the Nation and editor David Remnick of the New Yorker,  as well as Martin Baron, executive editor and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post along with Post national security whiz Bart Gellman.

 There were also outsiders who seem to have now become insiders, Glenn Greenwald skyping in from Brazil, and his colleague Laura Poitras in Berlin.  Edward Snowden’s super articulate legal advisor Ben Wizner, from the ACLU appeared on the first panel.

While the newspapers publish Snowden revelations disseminated by Greenwald and Poitras, it seemed clear they really don’t like working with them, seeing them more as advocates than “legitimate” neutral objective pros like themselves.

Nevertheless, it was a rare united front of media leaders and mainstream reporters along with independents speaking out for the public’s right to know.

Although there was some squeamishness in Establishment circles about the need to “balance” supposedly legitimate national security interests and a freer flow of information—there was a great deal of prattling about “responsibility”— top newspapers are rattling the spooks by their willingness to carry what they spies as stolen or purloined documents.

 The intelligence functionaries spoke in terms of “good guys” versus “bad guys.”

Of course, they assume they are the former. Today, at the NSA and other agencies there seems to be more momentum to  “punish” wrong doers and rule through intimidation. Representing this ‘we are only here to protect you’ approach wasRobert L. Deitz, former general counsel, N.S.A. and senior councillor to the C.I.A. director and Robert S. Litt, General Counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

In his speech, Litt expressed regret that the NSA hadn’t been more open in the past.

Yet, when I tried to interview him afterwards, he directed me to his PR flack who showed me how limited he is in speaking to the press—even at a press event. So much for access or an interest in engaging with critics.

He and his colleagues are masters at speaking with forked tongues andrunarounds even as they feign at openness.

The newspaper editors present insisted they were very deliberative, agonizing about what to publish and not publish, always sensitive to the fears of intelligence agencies.

 Representatives of those agencies took a hard line, advocating the prosecution of leakers who break the law.  None of them criticized the top secret courts or repressive legislation.

 When challenged repeatedly for evidence of how leaks harm national security, they became even vaguer. They say disclosures of how the NSA collects information leads to countermeasures by the people they spy on, and,thus, makes it harder for them to what they consider is their job.

They apparently then don’t know what they are missing—like, perhaps, intelligence on what the Russians were planning in Crimea.

 Spying on Americans is, I guess, easier.

At the NSA today, a newly promoted executive comes from their “Media Leaks Task Force”

“Media Leaks” seems to the threat the Agency worries about the most these days—not challenges by foreign governments or terrorists.

In August 2013, it issued a press release saying, “NSA planned to initiate 4,000 re-investigations on civilian employees to reduce the *potential* of an insider compromise of sensitive information and missions.”

 Insider “compromises” (now aided and abetted by major media outlets) have driven the agency crazy even as some of its critics have used that same term to describe NSAexecswho designed their offices as a “command module” to resemble a Star Trek movie or TV Set.

Some of the exchanges at this event about ”Sources and Secrets” were sharp, bordering on real clashes over the future of the press’s right to inform the public about what is happening in the shadows of our democracy.

 You would have thought that these “hot” and timely controversies, and the media issues they raise, would be enough to attract more TV cameras here in the ‘Network City’ that is in New York.

 You might think they would turn out in droves; Ifyou did, you would think wrong.

To my knowledge, the camera from our independent media company, Globalvision, was the ­only one in the house. The event was taped by the New York Times and will be shown on City University TV way down the cable dial—treated as an academic event, hardly a big draw on the media spectrum.

You would have also thought that panels would lead to some collective action, not just a ventilation of grievances, but no plan or campaign was put forth, probably because of the competitive nature of media enterprises that are always seeking to one-up each other.  They are better at competition than collaboration.

Many key players are not comfortable, as the editor of the Washington Post acknowledged, being “adversarial,”  even as manyalso admitted that had not been aggressive enough in the past in challenging over classification and sececy—often cooperating or being complicit with government requests and steering.

 There were calls for more pro-active reporting while journalists pointed out that government officials do far more leaking than dissidents like Snowden or Chelsea Manning.

 The March 21 date of the event did have some resonance in media history.

•In the Times on Friday was a page one story on other media priorities— on the CEO of Time Warner Cable who after a few months in the job, sold his own company to Comcast, and is now line to receive an $80 million golden handshake after just six weeks on the job.

•In l992 on that day, Johnny Carson hosted his final episode after 30 seasons.

 •In 2011, Radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted that the end of the world would occur on March 21, a prophecy that would, happily, fizzle.  (If it he was right, this event would not have occurred!  I am beginning to sound like those “experts” on CNN that suggested an extra terrestrial prospect for that disappearing Malaysian plane.)

 This media event about the media is about the further erosion,  if not the end, of a free press as we have known it, but the press couldn’t bother to cover it. They had other priorities like Kim Kadashian’s first presence on the cover of Vogue.

The only really newsworthy disclosure was Senator Chuck Schumer’s prediction that a Shield law defending reporters has White House and bi-partisan backing and may pass this year.

 That will be seen as a great victory for journalists who want to do their jobs without being investigated, interrogated for incarcerated, even though most Courts are currently eroding press rights or privileges as unconstitutional.

Before we break out the bubbly and cheer the passage of a law that has taken so long to pass, bear in mind that it has a huge loophole big enough to drive an NSA big-data storage warehouse through—the so-called “National Security exemption” that insures,at a minimum, that conferences like this will be needed for years to come.

 Encryption will not save us from that.

SCHUMER: SENATE HAS VOTES FOR MEDIA RULES…PROTECTIONS ONLY FOR ‘COVERED JOURNALISTS’

By DONNA CASSATA
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A supporter of a bill to protect reporters and the news media from having to reveal confidential sources said Friday the measure has the backing of the Obama administration and the support of enough senators to move ahead this year.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, spoke optimistically about prospects for the measure, identifying five Republicans who would join with Democrats and independents on a bill that he said would address a constitutional oversight.

While the first amendment protects freedom of the press, “there is no first amendment right for gathering information,” Schumer said at The New York Times’ Sources and Secrets Conference on the press, government and national security.

The bill was revived last year after the disclosure that the Justice Department had secretly subpoenaed almost two months’ worth of telephone records for 21 phone lines used by reporters and editors for The Associated Press and secretly used a search warrant to obtain some emails of a Fox News journalist.

The Justice Department took the actions in looking into leaks of classified information to the news organizations. The AP received no advance warning of the subpoena.

Schumer discussed the bill’s provisions and how, if it became law, it might affect journalist Glenn Greenwald, who reported on National Security Agency’s secret surveillance based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

“It’s probably not enough protections to (cover) him, but it’s better than current law,” Schumer said.

The bill’s protections would apply to a “covered journalist,” defined as an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have to have been employed for one year within the last 20 or three months within the last five years.

It would apply to student journalists or someone with a considerable amount of freelance work in the last five years. A federal judge also would have the discretion to declare an individual a “covered journalist” who would be granted the privileges of the law.

The bill also says that information is only privileged if it is disseminated by a news medium, described as “newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, news agency, news website, mobile application or other news or information service (whether distributed digitally or otherwise); news program, magazine or other periodical, whether in print, electronic or other format; or thorough television or radio broadcast … or motion picture for public showing.”

While the definition covers traditional and online media, it draws the line at posts on Twitter, blogs or other social media websites by non-journalists.

The overall bill would protect reporters and news media organizations from being required to reveal the identities of confidential sources, but it does not grant an absolute privilege to journalists.

The bill makes clear that before the government asks a news organization to divulge sources, it first must go to a judge, who would supervise any subpoenas or court orders for information. Such orders would be limited, if possible, “in purpose, subject matter and period of time covered so as to avoid compelling disclosure of peripheral, nonessential or speculative information.”

Schumer was asked how the bill would affect James Risen, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who is battling government efforts to force him to testify in the trial of a CIA official occused of leaking information to him.

“Under our bill, Risen would have his day in court,” Schumer said.

The senator wasn’t certain about the impact on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying he didn’t know how Assange makes his money under the bill’s definition of a “covered journalist.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill last September on a 13-5 vote. Schumer said the measure has the support of Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He also noted the backing of Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch in the committee.

“I think we’re going to get the bill on the floor of the Senate and pass it,” said Schumer, who explained that other Republicans have concerns due to national security.

Votes are not expected until after April, however.

In the AP story that triggered one of the leak probes, the news organization reported that U.S. intelligence had learned that al-Qaida’s Yemen branch hoped to launch a spectacular attack using a new, nearly undetectable bomb aboard a U.S.-bound airliner around the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death.

In the Fox News story, reporter James Rosen reported that U.S. intelligence officials had warned Obama and senior U.S. officials that North Korea would respond to a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning nuclear tests with another nuclear test.

Last month, the Justice Department announced it was revising its rules for obtaining records from the news media in leak investigations, promising that in most instances, the government will notify news organizations beforehand of its intention to do so.

The revised procedures are designed to give news organizations an opportunity to challenge any subpoenas or search warrants in federal court.

THE DEFINITION OF CENSORSHIP: UNIVERSITY FINES STUDENTS $100 FOR TALKING TO REPORTERS

CALPOLY

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By Robby Soave | The Daily Caller

At least two student-candidates for student government at California Polytechnic State University were fined $100 each for talking to reporters about their respective campaigns, violating a curiously draconian election code.

The election code of Cal Poly’s student government, Associated Students, Inc., prohibits candidates from actively campaigning until within 10 days of the election. The code defines active campaigning as “a non-verbal public display or distribution of specific information (physical or electronic) about any ASI candidate.”

This even includes newspaper articles written about the candidates, the ASI election committee determined.

Such an article appeared in the Mustang News, the university’s student newspaper. Several students were publicly identified as candidates for office and provided quotes for the article–triggering the $100 fines.

The fines provoked quite an outcry.

“If this sounds completely stupid to you, join the crowd,” wrote Joe Tarica, a local columnist.

The stupidity did not stop there, however. The fines appear to trigger whenever any publication mentions the candidates in any capacity–even without their permission–such that news stories about the fining of the candidates trigger more fines, and so on.

J.J. Jenkins, editor-in-chief of the Mustang News, gave an unbelievable account of the cyclical fining to The College Fix:

I’m communicating non-verbally now. If I were to write the names of the four candidates for ASI President, it would put them in violation of the election code and a fine could be levied. In fact, if you were to write a comment or tweet naming a student in connection with “ASI presidential candidate,” you too could open them up to a violation. …

We ran a story about those fines Tuesday, and ASI declared the candidates to be in violation of the code again. We printed a story about the second violation because it was newsworthy — predictably resulting in a third violation.

It’s a vicious cycle. We get it, and so does ASI. But it highlights an infringement on the candidates’ right to free speech, the right to speak with a newspaper and have their words distributed to a wider audience.

The result is a chilling effect on students’ speech.

“Consequently, it has put us in the unenviable position of reporting news knowing it could result in fines to innocent candidates,” wrote Jenkins. “But if we tailor our news coverage to what ASI deems appropriate, we aren’t doing our job as independent investigators of facts on this campus.”

Thanks to the public outcry, ASI has suspended the fines while it confers with university legal counsel regarding whether the election code is actually enforceable as written.

The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to whether it believes its students’ free speech rights are being violated.

BLOOMBERG MOVES TO BAN PRO-GUN SPEECH ON FACEBOOK

Facebook now working with former N.Y. mayor to censor support for the Second Amendment

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Kit Daniels
Infowars.com

Facebook is currently working with two anti-gun groups to further restrict firearm discussions on its various pages in a move that will likely lead to the outright censorship of gun topics throughout the social media site.

Facebook will accelerate its demise by flirting with gun grabbers. Credit: Thos003 / Flickr

Facebook will accelerate its demise by flirting with gun grabbers. Credit: Thos003 / Flickr

After Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action spent the past month pressuring Facebook to censor gun-themed fan pages, the company finally agreed to reconsider its current policies, according to the anti-gun publication Venture Beat.

An insider told the publication that the ongoing talks between the gun control groups and Facebook were “progressing” and that they have already made agreements yet to be disclosed.

Moms Demand Action, which publicly partnered with MAIG in December, began to pressure Facebook last month to change its stance on firearms.

The anti-gun group even produced a video meant to “shame” Facebook for allowing its members to post pictures of and privately sell guns, despite the fact that many such transactions are perfectly legal in the vast majority of states.

But the group’s attack on gun rights won’t stop there.

Last month, a New York mayor exposed that the true goal of these organizations is a nationwide gun ban.

“It did not take long to realize that MAIG’s agenda was much more than ridding felons of illegal guns,” Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Mayor John C. Tkazyik wrote. “Under the guise of helping mayors facing a crime and drug epidemic, MAIG intended to promote confiscation of guns from law-abiding citizens.”

Likewise, the pressure from these groups to force Facebook to censor legal gun sales will only lead to an outright ban on firearm discussions on the social media site.

And unfortunately, Facebook already has a long history of censoring pro-liberty statements and banning users who promote basic human freedoms.

Last year, Facebook deactivated the Facebook page of a Pennsylvania gun store after the store’s owner announced his intent to raffle off an AR-15.

Additionally, in late 2012, Facebook suspended at least 20 accounts operated by individuals in alternative media during a 24 hour period, claiming that they violated “Facebook policies.”

The company also banned an image which contained a quote by Mahatma Gandhi explaining how the British disarmed the population during their rule in India.

And the social media giant warned Infowars’ own Darrin McBreen not to voice his political opinion in 2011 and even deleted the official Alex Jones page over an image of the Gadsden flag in 2010.

These aren’t isolated incidents; Facebook routinely censors political posts by claiming that they violated its “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.”

But by also pushing a gun control agenda, Facebook will only accelerate its current decline as millions of gun owners abandon the social media site.

U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROTOCOLS INCLUDE SWEEPING ATTACKS ON PRESS FREEDOM

By Eric London

In an order published by Attorney General Eric Holder on February 27, the Obama administration granted itself unprecedented powers to spy on and prosecute journalists. The new policy announcement directly violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom speech, or of the press…”

Last year, the administration announced it was preparing a series of “reforms” after it was caught wiretapping the phone lines of journalists with the Associated Press. In what has become the standard practice of the administration, however, the banner of “reform” has been used to obscure the establishment of the legal foundations for a police state.

Although the administration presents the new protocols as protective of democratic rights, the content of the order represents a significant escalation in the attack on freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

As an initial matter, the order is an assertion by the executive branch that it has the power to regulate itself on pressing constitutional matters. Under the separation of powers doctrine, however, the U.S. Constitution proscribes precisely such conduct. If the executive branch has the right to determine for itself the constitutionality of its own actions, then presumably the judicial branch exists simply to rubber stamp the executive’s decisions. This implies that there are no limits to efforts by the executive to expand its powers.

The regulations announced by the administration in themselves amount to an assertion of massive repressive powers. Under the new rules, the power of the attorney general to use “certain law enforcement tools, including subpoenas, court orders…and search warrants to seek information from, or records of, non-consenting members of the news media” is greatly expanded.

Among the protocols that ostensibly limit the power of the executive branch to rummage through journalists’ papers and documents, one regulation stands out. The Department of Justice order standardizes a process of government intimidation through which journalists will be given the opportunity to “voluntarily” hand over their communications and notes through what the Department of Justice calls “negotiations.” The order sets forth that the government will be allowed to exercise a subpoena or search warrant only after negotiations have taken place.

The imposition of such a “negotiation” requirement has chilling implications for freedom of the press. Under this requirement, officials from the executive branch will visit journalists in their homes and workplaces and bully them into handing over communications and work product under threat of prosecution and subpoena.

Aside from being forced to break source confidentiality, members of the “fourth estate” will now be obliged to carry out their investigations under the constant threat of a phone call or visit from government “negotiators.” Journalists will operate under a climate of fear in which only the most courageous will consider making connections with whistleblowers, and only the boldest will work to expose government lies and crimes.

For the Obama administration, these are not unintended consequences. To the contrary, the administration sees quashing all exposures of government illegality—such as the revelations of massive government spying by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—as a central goal. Fearful of the impact the leaks by Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have had on the political consciousness of the population, the administration hopes that the imposition of a “negotiation” requirement will force journalists to think twice about publishing information that runs counter to the interests of the state.

Even the supposed restriction on government surveillance and persecution of reporters in the form of the negotiation requirement can be easily evaded. The rule that a negotiation must occur between the government and a journalist before a subpoena or warrant is issued can be overridden if “the Attorney General determines that, for compelling reasons, such negotiations would pose a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation, risk grave harm to national security, or present an imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm.” This is a loophole wide enough to drive the proverbial truck through.

The order also carves out a rule of general exception in cases related to “national security.” For example, any requirement that the government give notice to journalists before it violates their First and Fourth Amendment (banning unreasonable searches and seizures) rights does not apply where the journalist “is or is reasonably likely to be…committing or attempting to commit a crime of terrorism,” or is “aiding, abetting, or conspiring in illegal activity” related to “terrorism.”

It should be noted that the criterion defined by the phrase “reasonably likely” is extremely loose, giving the government license to spy far beyond the scope of the “probable cause” standard spelled out in the Fourth Amendment. The decision to apply this exception, moreover, will be made unilaterally by the executive branch, without any review or sanction from a court of law.

This exception is clearly intended to apply to journalists such as Assange and Glenn Greenwald, who work with (“aid and abet”) whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden (“criminals” under the Espionage Act of 1917). In effect, this means that any journalist who helps publish leaked material is engaging in activity that is related to a criminal investigation and therefore forfeits both his or her First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights.

The order also includes the “restriction” that the attorney general himself expressly authorize subpoenas, warrant applications and court-ordered seizures. But this is not a genuine limitation. To the contrary, it is an expansion of the powers of the chief federal law enforcement official.

Even this requirement is watered down by exceptions. Lower-ranking officials in the Department of Justice will be able to issue subpoenas to journalists and news organizations for “information unrelated to ordinary newsgathering activities,” “for information or records relating to personnel not involved in ordinary newsgathering activities,” and “for information related to public comments, messages, or postings by readers, viewers, customers, or subscribers.”

In other words, journalists can be brought before a court under oath to testify on the content of forum posts made by readers.

Perhaps the broadest language in the order comes in the section pertaining to the role of the intelligence apparatus in directing the Department of Justice to pursue certain journalists. The attorney general may subpoena members of the news media in “investigations of unauthorized disclosures of national defense information or of classified information, where the Director of National Intelligence, after consultation with the relevant Department or agency head(s), certifies to the Attorney General the significance of the harm raised by the unauthorized disclosure and that the information disclosed was properly classified and reaffirms the intelligence community’s continued support for the investigation and prosecution.”

In such circumstances, the government need not show probable cause in order to obtain the content of the private communication of a journalist. It need only offer “specific and articulable facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the contents of a wire or electronic communication, or the records or other information sought, are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.”

These unprecedented attacks on press freedom are being carried out by the Obama administration on the basis of the pseudo-legal argument that democratic rights must be “balanced” against national security needs.

The only legal justification provided by the administration throughout the entire order is the assertion that the government must “strike the proper balance among several vital interests: (1) protecting national security, (2) ensuring public safety, (3) promoting effective law enforcement and the fair administration of justice, and (4) safeguarding the essential role of the free press…”

Such a balancing test is unconstitutional on its face. There is no asterisk at the conclusion of the Bill of Rights—no caveat that “some restrictions may apply.” To the contrary, the basic democratic rights of the population were declared “inalienable” by the signers of the Declaration of Independence. But these rights find no defenders within the contemporary political and media establishment.

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