Sunday, July 4, 2010

First Amendment, RIP

It seems like the only amendment anyone cares about these days is the second. I suppose conservatives want to be prepared to start shooting up this country, and its Latino population, if the Supreme Court overrules the Arizona immigration law, but no worries about free speech. That's because no one seems to care or pay attention that our government, under this so-called socialist/Islamist/Kenyan/Maoist presidency is threatening to criminalize coverage of the oil spill in the Gulf.

Of course, this is the same government that has recently argued before the Supreme Court that trying to convince a terrorist organization to become peaceful, in a foreign country, constitutes material support for terrorism, deserving a criminal charge and imprisonment (something our wonderful court supported by a ruling of 6 to 3). Just think of this when they write the history of how our Constitution was eroded into nothingness because you know the NRA and the supporters of Total Information Awareness seven years ago will not.

Supreme Court Backs Use of Broad Law in Terrorism Prosecutions

The United States Supreme Court gave the executive branch on Monday one of its biggest in-court victories in the legal war on terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001, by endorsing an expansive and deferential view of the government's oft-used "material support" law. By a vote of 6-3, the court declared that the workhorse criminal statute -- widely used, and successfully so, since the Twin Towers fell -- did not violate the First Amendment or the due process clause of the Constitution.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in one of the final cases of his 35-year career, joined the court's five-member conservative majority in ending a 12-year-long challenge over the "material support" statute. The catch-all federal law prohibits anyone from "knowingly providing" a designated foreign terrorist organization with "material support or resources," which includes "training, expert advice or assistance, personnel and service." Stevens and the conservative justices found that the law was neither too vague nor a restriction on protected speech or association.

The ruling erases much of the doubt surrounding the scope of the law -- questions which have persisted since 1994. Back then, in the wake of the first attack on the World Trade Center, the Congress made it a crime to support terrorist activity (the definition of "support" being the main point of contention). Then, after the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, Congress acted again to buttress the language of the "support" statute. Then again after 9/11, the legislators tinkered with the law to allow it to become what it is now: standard operating procedure in virtually every terrorism case brought in a court of law. The plaintiffs in the case brought their action in 1998, around the time that the federal courts were dealing with "material support" provisions in the African Embassy bombing trials in federal court in Manhattan.

Here is a key paragraph from Chief Justice John Roberts' majority ruling:

At bottom, plaintiffs simply disagree with the considered judgment of Congress and the Executive that providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization -- even seemingly benign support -- bolsters the terrorist activities of that organization. That judgment, however, is entitled to significant weight, and we have persuasive evidence before us to sustain it. Given the sensitive interests in national security and foreign affairs at stake, the political branches have adequately substantiated their determination that, to serve the Government's interest in preventing terrorism, it was necessary to prohibit providing material support in the form of training, expert advice, personnel, and services to foreign terrorist groups, even if the supporters meant to promote only the groups' nonviolent ends.

Congress spoke clearly, Justice Roberts argued, and when it did it made sense. In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer disagreed:

"In my view, the Government has not made the strong showing necessary to justify under the First Amendment the criminal prosecution of those who engage in these activities. All the activities involve the communication and advocacy of political ideas and lawful means of achieving political ends. Even the subjects the plaintiffs wish to teach -- using international law to resolve disputes peacefully or petitioning the United Nations, for instance -- concern political speech. We cannot avoid the constitutional significance of these facts on the basis that some of this speech takes place outside the United States and is directed at foreign governments, for the activities also involve advocacy in this country directed to our government and its policies."
Despite Justice Breyer's reasoning, a high court that blocked the Bush administration's terror law efforts on four separate occasions from 2002 to 2008 delivered unto the Obama administration Monday morning quite a "blank check" to continue to use the "support" statute to aggressively check the flow of money and services to designated terror organizations.

If that is all it takes to be a material supporter of terrorism, then every American who celebrates July 4th could be called a terrorist, along with the framers of our Constitution and those who signed the Declaration of Independence. This is beyond a blank check. It is a free pass to turn entire swaths of our population into felons--that is, those who have not already been felonized by our wondrous war on drugs and just about every other domestic crusade used by the government to justify intervening in our lives.

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