Free Speech and Civil Liberties in the PR Age of Obama
By Jeanine Molloff
The dedication of the Martin Luther King National Monument to take place August 28th, 2011–the 50th anniversary of the now historic “I Have A Dream” speech, was postponed as Hurricane Irene pounded the East Coast. The monument is a striking giant sculpture of Dr. King framed by his most famous statements. It is a testimony to social growth that such a monument has been built and is to be honored by our first African-American President–President Obama. A famous quote by King on the nature of democracy is particularly appropriate at this juncture in post-9/11 history. King’s book–Where Do We Go From Here : Chaos or Community states it better than I ever could.
…”Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured or forgotten. A society is always eager to cover misdeeds with a cloak of forgetfulness, but no society can fully repress an ugly past when the ravages persist into the present. America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay. If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the most indispensable element of greatness–JUSTICE.
(Where Do We Go From Here : Chaos or Community, p. 109).
Little did we know that a greater danger than Irene stood poised to destroy all we hold dear–namely the latest actions taken by the Obama DOJ in the name of this asinine ‘war on terror.’ It seems that the Obama administration and his DOJ under Eric Holder fear the dangers of ‘free speech,’ so much that cloaked in an unconstitutional definition of …”providing material support” to alleged terrorists–American citizens are targeted, arrested and prosecuted (under threat of capital punishment) via the anti-terrorism laws passed after 9/11. Two such cases come to mind—that of Jubair Ahmad, and alleged terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki.
Jubair Ahmad—jailed for the crime of ‘speech’….
Mere days after the King monument–a monument to free speech and free assembly–was to be dedicated, the FBI announced on Friday September 2, the arrest and indictment of Jubair Ahmad for …”providing material support” to a designated ‘terrorist’ organization–Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT). He now faces a 23 year prison sentence if found guilty.
Ahmad’s crime of ‘material support’ was a 5 minute video criticizing the US government’s policy in the Moslem world—NOTHING ELSE. It seems that the Obama administration is determined to protect us from ‘dangerous minds.’ The problem with this arrest and expected prosecution is the small matter of the BILL OF RIGHTS. Apparently, President Obama and Eric Holder never got the memo.
Since I wanted to get DOJ’s opinion–I contacted Eric Holder, his Assistant Attorney General at DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel–Virginia Sietz and the administrator in charge of FOIA requests Carmen L. Mallon. I was contacted by Mallon’s subordinate promptly and provided further information regarding the filing of FOIA requests. I will report the results of my FOIA request upon receipt of any information.
The reason Jubair Ahmad’s case is unique lies in the fact that his alleged ‘crime’ was free speech. While Ahmad’s political sympathies may lie with Al Qaeda—last time I checked ‘sympathizing’ and expressing politically incorrect opinions wasn’t illegal. Jubair Ahmad’s impending prosecution is blatantly political; possessing no true judicial standing or constitutional merit. The only reason US Department of Justice under Eric Holder and President Obama is able to push this prosecution lies in the vague wording of Patriot regarding the …”lending material support,” provision, to organizations or individuals arbitrarily labeled by the State Department with the ‘scarlet letter’ of TERRORIST. This power was defended by a recent Supreme Court decision in the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.
Definition of ‘material support’ provided in Patriot Act…
The June 21st supreme court decision in the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, grants the US government the right to CRIMINALIZE POLITICAL SPEECH, by upholding the ‘material support’ provision of this obscene law. The court has legitimized the criminalization of ‘material support’ to those groups or individuals deemed ‘terrorists’ by the Secretary of State, without mandating the government provide any proof or due process procedures. As the Patriot Act is written, ‘material support’—includes any “service”, “training”, “expert advice or assistance” or “personnel”. The Obama administration pursued the continuation of these Patriot provisions with exuberance—disregarding the legitimate concerns of civil liberties groups and charities.
Neither the State Department nor the Department of Justice is required to provide any proof of wrongdoing, or in the presence of alleged proof, fulfill the due process requirement of a real trial in a court of law, as opposed to this Star Chamber obscenity.
Using the vague ‘lending material support’ provision—anyone, including former President Jimmy Carter could be secretly imprisoned, stripped of their rights, tortured, tried in absentia and executed, with no due process involved. In fact, Jimmy Carter was quoted explaining the insanity of this provision;
“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that inhibits the work of human rights and conflict resolution groups. The ‘material support law’—which is aimed at putting an end to terrorism—actually threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence. The VAGUE LANGUAGE of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Defends Bill of Rights Against Obama Administration…
The Center for Constitutional Rights was the defender of our rights in this Supreme Court battle against the Obama administration. According to CCR, the vagueness of the ‘material support’ provision not only CRIMINALIZES SPEECH, BOTH HUMANITARIAN AND POLITICAL, but may include the following activities as newly minted CRIMINAL ACTS:
–publishing an op-ed critical of the US government’s position;
–attorneys submitting an amicus brief in court to defend the accused;
–attending and/or participating in peace conferences not politically sanctioned by the US government;
–providing training in human rights advocacy;
–and many other pure speech activities that the government refuses to enumerate.
Since both the Supreme Court and the Justice Department fail to offer any criterion describing examples of ‘lending material support’—or grant access to the names of ‘terrorist’ groups—a simple expression of political speech , charitable giving, conflict resolution or journalism– could land anyone in the defendant’s chair. The arbitrary and unreasonable nature of this ‘material support’ law more closely resembles the type of censorship prosecuted under the 18th century Sedition laws or the anti-democracy repression in China for the crime of ‘speech.’ Prosecution and incarceration (sometimes secretly), minus due process is criminal on our government’s part—but at least these crimes can be remedied. In the case of Anwar al-Awlaki—the ‘remedy’ for alleged crimes is assassination by cowardly drone attack.
The CIA Drone Murder of an American Citizen…
The recent assassination of alleged ‘terrorist’, Anwar al-Awlaki—AN AMERICAN CITIZEN, was ordered by a secret presidential panel of …”senior governmental officials”–reportedly a satellite of the White House’s National Security Council. Awlaki was murdered by a CIA drone attack in Yemen. The President’s role in the CIA Kill List committee is kept purposely vague—and Reuter’s attempts to obtain clarification from White House spokesman Tommy Vietor went unanswered. (Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/05/us-cia-killlist-idUSTRE79475C20111005)
Top Dem Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger makes excuses for president…
According to the original Reuter’s piece, the top democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, attempted to justify the CIA Kill Lists, even though the same actions would have been denounced had they been instituted by George W. Bush.
According to Rep. Ruppersberger, the arbitrary process involves…
…”going through the National Security Council, then it eventually goes to the president, but the National Security Council does the investigation, they have lawyers, they review, they look at the situation, you have input from the military and also, we make sure we follow international law.”
After listening to such convoluted reasoning, you have to wonder what Ruppersberger would omit from presidential powers. I’d like to know what ‘international law’ Ruppersberger is citing—perhaps the Spanish Inquisition, redux into the 21 century? So far, this National Security Council subcommittee, (which refuses to identify its members)–more closely resembles Murder, Inc.–than a legitimate group under a ‘democratic’ government. What criterion has Congress used to review this obscenity?
To make matters worse, the planning for these murders has been ongoing by the admission of State Department officials. Just last spring, Daniel Benjamin, a top State Department counter-terrorism official put a legalistic ‘foot in his mouth’ when he explained the following about the Awlaki case;
…”Let me underscore, Awlaki is no mere messenger but someone integrally involved in lethal terrorist activities.” (Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/05/us-cia-killlist-idUSTRE79475C20111005) My question to Daniel Benjamin, Rep. Ruppersberger , Secretary of State Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder and ultimately, President Obama is simply—by what right did they nullify due process of law? These actions are those of a would-be emperor, not a legitimate president. Their accusations, paired with revocation of due process–more closely resembles a fascist dictatorship than a representative democracy. Daniel Benjamin anemic justification offers us propaganda– not proof.
CIA Kill List and President’s Claim to Selectively Murder ‘Terrorists’ Without Trial or Due Process…
Make no mistake—the Awlaki case IS an ‘extra-judicial’ murder, ordered by a committee of bureaucrats and the President. Constitutional scholar Glenn Greenwald explained the danger of this secretive committee. Greenwald made it simple for this hapless Attorney General– bluntly explaining that the US government has illegitimately seized power the 5th Amendment was specifically designed to forbid..(“NO PERSON SHALL BE DEPRIVED OF LIFE WITHOUT DUE PROCESS OF LAW”) by criminalizing constitutionally protected activities as CLEARLY cited in the 1st Amendment. Greenwald states that the 1st Amendment protects both expression of politically dangerous ideas, but also the actual attendance at anti-government speeches, even those which advocate the violent overthrow of the same government.
Glenn Greenwald Gives AG Holder a Law Lesson…
Greenwald cited the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1969 decision in the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio. The Brandenburg case (which is routinely studied in the first semester of any law school), overturned the criminal conviction of a Klu Klux Klan leader who was advocating voilence against political representatives, and in doing so struck down an Ohio statute which made it a crime to…
…”advocate…the duty, necessity, or propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing INDUSTRIAL OR POLITICAL REFORM”…and/or to …”VOLUNTARILY ASSEMBLE with any society, group, or assemblage of persons formed to teach or advocate the doctrines of criminal syndicalism.”
Greenwald also points out that members of our US Senate still fail to grasp these basic concepts of free assembly, free speech and association, citing a statement made byTea Party freshman Sen. Rand Paul on Sean Hannity’s radio show. Sen. Rand Paul was demanding the arrest of those who
…”ATTEND radical political speeches,” adding that …”if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after–they should be deported or put in prison.”
Ironically, Sen. Paul made this clueless statement one week after leading opposition to the Patriot Act’s re-authorization on CIVIL LIBERTIES CONCERNS. Seems like Sen. Paul only considers civil liberties for those who blindly agree with his limited purview of liberty itself.
The Obama administration has criminalized political speech by placing a ‘litmus test’ on the content of the speech. Subsequently, freedom of assembly is also criminalized as a by-product of ‘guilt by association.’ Decades after Dr. King spoke of the …”ugly pages of American history;” the National Security Council has been writing the newest ‘ugly page,’ while the first African-American President is hiding behind the legal ‘cover’ of the Patriot Act. If the American people are looking for a ‘Superman’–Dr. King represents the real deal, with a cloak of honesty and justice, whereas President Obama’s cloak is dirtied by legal chicanery and propaganda.