The James Rosen incident is indicative of a trend, in recent years, of chipping away at First Amendment rights. In the Rosen case, the Justice Department claimed that it did not violate the press freedom of the Fox News Correspondent as he isn’t press. Instead, the DOJ argued, he was an “aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator” in a spy ring for having receiving classified information about North Korea from an intelligence analyst.
Evidence of Rosen’s spying consisted of an e-mail to Rosen’s source stating that he wanted to break “news ahead of my competitors” and that they could “expose muddle-headed policy when we see it—or force the administration’s hand to go in the right direction, if possible.”
It is clear that Freedom of the press was the target in this case. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza asserts: "[I]t is unprecedented for the government, in an official court document, to accuse a reporter of breaking the law for conducting the routine business of reporting on government secrets." And, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank opines that, "the Rosen affair... uses technology to silence critics in a way Richard Nixon could only have dreamed of."
The Rosen matter came on the heels of the revelation that the DOJ secretly subpoenaed the private phone records of several Associated Press (AP) reporters and editors. Over the course of two months, several phone lines of journalists were tapped, prompting AP President Gary Pruitt to call the ongoing monitoring a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
Shortly before the AP story broke, in yet another example of rights being trampled, it was revealed that conservative organizations had been specifically targeted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Organizations with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names were experiencing difficulties in attaining tax-exempt status. Christian, pro-Israel and anti-abortion groups were targeted, as well. To make matters worse, Sarah Hall Ingram, who served as head of the IRS office handling tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012 (which is when the targeting went on) is now head honcho of the IRS division in charge of the IRS office policing Obamacare.
Just as these scandals were beginning to heat up, another jab at the First Amendment took place. The Civil Rights offices of the Education Department and the DOJ issued another assault on free speech, ruling that colleges must eliminate and punish ‘verbal action’ which may allude to sexual matters. According to Accuracy in Academia, this would include rumors (true or not), ‘unwelcome’ requests for dates, off-color jokes and virtually all sexual discussion. These acts will now be (selectively) punishable as sexual harassment under orders from the Education Department.
In essence, any unwelcome sexual speech or other conduct is ‘sexual harassment.’ It does not matter if it is severe, repetitive or pervasive. It is also is subjective, as opposed to objective—the law is based on an individual’s response and not on whether it would offend a reasonable person.
Accuracy in Academia elaborates:
“This goes way beyond the Supreme Court ruling that to constitute illegal sexual harassment, sexual advances or other verbal or physical conduct must be severe and pervasive, and create a hostile environment.
In short, sexual harassment is defined to include ‘any’ speech or other verbal conduct even if it would not offend a reasonable person, but rather only is offensive from the subjective viewpoint of a hypersensitive person.
Perversely, the government suggests that punishment may be required BEFORE a disciplinary hearing, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland‘s ‘sentence first, verdict afterwards.”
Then too, in an astonishing legislative move that took place in 2011 but was barely a blip on the media radar, a Tennessee law was passed making it a crime to "transmit or display an image" online that is likely to "frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress" to someone who views it. Violators can get almost a year in jail or have to pay up to $2500 in fines.
The "emotionally distressed" individual need not be the intended recipient. Anyone who sees the image is a potential victim. Additionally, the government does not need to prove that you intended the image to be offensive. Law professor, Eugene Volokh, has pointed out that a wide variety of images, "pictures of Mohammed, or harsh cartoon insults of some political group," could “cause emotional distress to a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities,” triggering liability. He described the law as "pretty clearly unconstitutional."
In the same state, the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee is preparing to sponsor a special meeting on June 4, called “Public Disclosure in a Diverse Society.” The main speakers for the event are DOJ official Bill Killian, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and FBI Special Agent of Knoxville Division Kenneth Moore. What is troubling about the event is that Killian will address how social media posts and documents deemed inflammatory toward Muslims can be considered a violation of civil rights laws. Killian explained that it is, “an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion. This is also to inform the public what federal laws are in effect and what the consequences are.”
This is a blatant attempt at subverting First Amendment rights, but Killian’s views apparently have the support of President Obama who has said: ”The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam.” And, on Obama’s behalf Secretary of State Hillary Clinton worked with the 56-member nation Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on ways to enforce a United Nations resolution against “Islamophobia” in the United States and other Western nations.
Under this resolution, “Islamophobia” would be a hate crime. In fact, in the OIC countries, the very act of proclaiming that Jesus is the son of God or that Israel is the Jewish homeland would be enough to incite violence.
Moreover, in 2012, the OIC successfully involved the Obama administration in its attempt to get Resolution 16/18 passed. Resolution 16/18 makes it an offense for non-Muslims to Blaspheme Islam. The State Department, represented by Hillary Clinton, hosted and co-chaired three OIC meetings known as the Istanbul Process. These meetings had Obama’s support and enabled the UN General Assembly to pass Resolution 16/18.
Catholic World Report makes a valid point:
“It’s tempting to think, ‘Well, that will never happen here. We’re not about to give up our right to free speech.’ But in fact, the sentiments of the Islamists were echoed by many in the US. Numerous government officials apologized for the insensitivity of the film, a couple of MSNBC commentators suggested that people connected with the film should be prosecuted as accessories to murder, and, in an address to the UN, President Obama said ‘the future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam’—which, when you think about it, is really quite an extraordinary statement. What would people think if he had said, ‘the future must not belong to those who slander the Lord Jesus’?”
In addition to that, Front Page Magazine reports that UN Resolution A/HRC/22/L.40, which has gone virtually unreported, has glaringly dangerous amendments: “To focus on just one, it asserts that ‘terrorism…cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.’ The problem with this resolution is obvious. The combining of these categories implies a false equation of immutable characteristics such as nationality and ethnicity with those that are subject to choice such as religion or belief.
For example, the Obama Administration erroneously characterized the Fort Hood attack as “workplace violence” instead of the act of terrorism that it was. Similarly, the administration has successfully cleansed from its national security and counterterrorism lexicon any reference to Islamic terrorism.
The Daily Caller reports:
“At the close of the Istanbul meeting in 2012, Secretary Clinton called for ‘formulating international laws preventing inciting hatred.’ OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu commended the Obama administration. ‘I particularly appreciate the kind personal interest of Secretary Clinton and the role played by the U.S. towards the consensual adoption of the resolution,’ he said.”
We are witnessing a heightened threat to free speech and it is a trend that can be seen throughout the West. Benjamin Franklin gave us this warning: “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”