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Old May 14, 2013, 09:59 PM   #1
Alabama Shooter
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Trampling the First Amendment

Two interesting news stories this week that if true show an abuse of power by the current administration in violating the First Amendment.

The rules of political scandal are simple:
- Act Surprised
- Deny all responsibility
- Make counter accusations

The first case centers around using the IRS to target of political enemies and organizations:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013...han-initially/

Perhaps as many as five hundred organizations were targeted by the IRS for investigation for no other reason than that they were opposed to the current administration and were vigorously exercising their First Amendment rights. The naked attempt to curtail their activity was at the very least: "unconscionable and appalling", possibly illegal and very likely a wide spread violation of civil rights. Such a wide pattern of misconduct would seem to indicate nothing other than a top led effort.


The next case is the secret court order of wiretapping of AP offices in an attempt to find leaks in the administration.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013...phone-records/

This might actually bring down the AG. I think this best sums it up:
Quote:
“There can be no possible justification for such an over broad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” Pruitt wrote to Holder. “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the news gathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s news gathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
One has to wonder if the government can steal information from the media for political gain what does that say about the state of our press? The press is mad today but they mostly forgive the administration for most malfeasance. If they decide to bear a grudge this could be the end for Holder.

My question are:

- Are these civil rights violations?

- If so how serious?

- Do those effected have ground for a suit?
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Last edited by Vanya; May 15, 2013 at 11:43 AM. Reason: removed extra m.
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Old May 14, 2013, 10:35 PM   #2
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IMHO these are violations of Federal law. I don't know that either could be considered a "civil" right, since both actions were directed at organizations rather than individuals. Nonetheless, immoral, unethical, and IMHO illegal and unconstitutional.

I also thought it was interesting that, when the news about the IRS targeting first broke, the Obama team tried to ... (wait for it, it's coming) ... BLAME IT ON BUSH!
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Old May 14, 2013, 10:57 PM   #3
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Let's keep the facts straight. The DOJ did not wiretap the phones, they subpoenaed phone records. This would show telephone numbers and lengths of conversations but not the conversations themselves. Still, one has to be concerned about the scope of the subpoenas.

Did you notice Eric Holder "recused" himself. This was simply away to avoid responsibility. He is good at that.

On the IRS scandal, the administration is trying to minimize it by relatively low level employees in one office (Cincinnati). Again, trying to place blame on the underlings. Where have we seen that before?
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Old May 14, 2013, 11:03 PM   #4
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Just to keep the record straight, the DOJ didn't wiretap anyone at AP -- it obtained phone records from more than 20 telephone lines used by the journalists who were "of interest," including office, home, and cell phones.

That said, it remains to be seen if any laws were broken; as Glenn Greenwald notes in the Guardian, it's impossible to evaluate this when the DOJ hasn't said what legal authority these actions were based on, nor what, if any, legal process was invoked. He goes on to say:
There are numerous instruments that have been vested in the DOJ to obtain phone records, many of which do not require court approval, including administrative subpoenas and "national security letters" (issued without judicial review); indeed, the Obama DOJ has previously claimed it has the power to obtain journalists' phone records without subpoeans using NSLs, and in its relentless pursuit to learn the identity of the source for one of New York Times' James Risen's stories, the Obama DOJ has actually claimed that journalists have no shield protections whatsoever in the national security context.
The Obama administration has shown itself willing to go to more or less any lengths to pursue, intimidate, and punish whistleblowers, and anyone who leaks classified information -- although the administration itself regularly does so when it perceives leaks to be advantageous.

It would be great if this incident produced enough outrage for Congress to act to rein in these abuses of power, but I'm not holding my breath.
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Old May 15, 2013, 07:44 AM   #5
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Quote:
Did you notice Eric Holder "recused" himself. This was simply away to avoid responsibility. He is good at that.
It seems Fast and Furious taught him something after all.
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Old May 15, 2013, 07:55 AM   #6
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A number of the articles did say wiretap. However it appears so far all they have confessed to is obtaining phone records.
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Old May 15, 2013, 11:17 AM   #7
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I would say this is only scratching the surface.

On a TFL "firearms-related" note, this sort of policy makes me curious if other news agencies were subpoena'd that were very pro-2A. AP was never exactly a huge enemy of the Obama administration.
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Old May 15, 2013, 11:41 AM   #8
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The DOJ's obtaining AP reporters' records is a significant issue in terms of constitutional rights, in terms of both the First and Fourth Amendments; this makes it a suitable topic for L&CR. A "firearms-related" component isn't necessary here.

The administration's major goal here is the intimidation and prosecution of anyone who releases information it would prefer to keep secret. Among other things, the current administration has prosecuted six people under the Espionage Act; this is more than in the entire previous history of the Act, going back to 1917. In addition, in at least one case, it has retroactively classified information in order to justify firing someone who released it while it was unclassified.

In other words, this is about the suppression of free speech, under the guise of "national security."

I doubt that the administration has an interest in discouraging the media from reporting on Second Amendment issues: the latter are, among other things, a convenient way to distract people from serious abuses of power.
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Old May 15, 2013, 11:52 AM   #9
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Quote:
It seems Fast and Furious taught him something after all.
It's really interesting to watch the way the ranks close in a way they didn't for Fast & Furious. Mainstream media didn't really want to deal with it, and pundits and politicians did their best to either protect the administration or at least gloss over the issue.

Now that it directly affects journalists, Katie bar the door. Piers Morgan was fuming yesterday, and in a fit of utter irony, he had former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer on. You may remember him as the guy who suggested allowing straw-puchased weapons to cross into Mexico for interdiction by SSP in February of 2011.

Acting Director Kenneth Melson and Attorney General Jason Weinstein both resigned when the Office of the Inspector General released his report on F&F, and I doubt it's much coincidence that Breuer resigned early this year. I guess he's sore that the AG threw him to the wolves.

Holder is deflecting blame now like he did then, claiming ignorance and dumping it in the lap of Deputy AG Cole. Despite being found in both civil and criminal contempt of Congress, this man still has his post.

Even though F&F is pretty much a dead letter, removing Holder from office over this would bring at least some sort of closure to the issue.
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Old May 15, 2013, 11:56 AM   #10
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For those curious I reviewed the rules for this section prior to posting this thread:

Quote:
Discussions in this forum will be centered upon legal issues as they relate to the 2nd Amendment and other Civil Rights. Constitutional law (which would encompass separation of powers, the impairment of contracts clause, the full faith and credit clause, etc., as well as the Bill of Rights) will also be on topic.
I am not interested in discussing the personal worth of those involved or the politics (although the civil rights violations appear in one example to be politically motivated, and maybe the other). Since the media was victimized in one case and some civil rights groups in the other this thing is a fascinating crucible to see how it plays out.

Anyone who thinks that the Bill of Rights is not all in one place for a reason might want to examine that belief.

Here is the DAG response to the AP:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/inte...en-cole-to-ap/

No explanation at all as to why they could not work through the agency.
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Old May 15, 2013, 12:00 PM   #11
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Fast & Furious, Bengazi, and now the IRS the AP thing....this administration keeps on stonewalling and lying.
Is this the same government that we're supposed to trust when they say "Nobody's going to take away your guns"?
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Old May 15, 2013, 12:23 PM   #12
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Every administration in recent years shades the truth and cannot be trusted. So let's stay on the OP topic. The gun issue is already known to be untrue.
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Old May 15, 2013, 01:08 PM   #13
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AS
Quote:
- Act Surprised
- Deny all responsibility
- Make counter accusations
Worked for Lance Armstrong for 12 years. These guys just have to make it 3 more..

Ironically, i was watching the move "All the president's men" the night before this story broke. Now THAT was a complicated mass of details to look over initially. This might also be more complicated, but in the end, the obviousness of the violation(s) against the AP is stunning. I can't imagine that they'd let this go lightly. Conversely, I"m not sure that people's eyes won't glaze over about this as well.
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Old May 15, 2013, 01:11 PM   #14
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I just find it appalling that it took something of this magnitude to wake up the major media outlets to the fact that the current Administration does some questionable things.

Sickening.
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Old May 15, 2013, 01:15 PM   #15
Glenn E. Meyer
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Quote:
My question are:

- Are these civil rights violations?

- If so how serious?

- Do those effected have ground for a suit?
That's the OP - let's stick to it as compared to complaining about politics. Yes, it's terrible.

Last hint on this.
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Old May 15, 2013, 01:40 PM   #16
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Certainly there's room to argue the moral ramifications of these acts, but as far as legal repercussions? AFAIK nothing serious ever happened when Bush 43's administration was targeting liberal groups and anti-war organizations. I don't expect that anything major will happen this time.
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Old May 15, 2013, 02:39 PM   #17
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Quote:
Certainly there's room to argue the moral ramifications of these acts, but as far as legal repercussions? AFAIK nothing serious ever happened when Bush 43's administration was targeting liberal groups and anti-war organizations. I don't expect that anything major will happen this time.
Correct these are the counter accusations. I believe they mostly account for four or five mostly well known groups with questionable finances at best. No wide spread pattern of misconduct.

The AG gave a bunch of essentially "no comments" before congress today.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013...-hearing-says/
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Last edited by Alabama Shooter; May 15, 2013 at 02:45 PM.
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Old May 15, 2013, 08:55 PM   #18
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Quote:
I just find it appalling that it took something of this magnitude to wake up the major media outlets to the fact that the current Administration does some questionable things.
I very highly doubt that the media's "wake up" had much to do with a sudden revelation about the character of the administration. Instead, I think that it probably had more to do with the fact that if the administration were allowed to get away with the IRS and AP scandals, that would set very dangerous precedents for the future.

For example, if we let the IRS get away with targeting conservative groups now, what happens when the shoe is on the other foot and, under a conservative administration, the same agency begins targeting liberal groups on purely political grounds?

Likewise, if the media gives the administration a pass on the AP scandal now, how could they retain credibility when they go after a conservative administration for doing the same thing later.

Basically, I think everyone understands that such egregious abuses of power cannot be swept under the rug because, if for no other reason, it would make one look (and rightly so) like a whiny hypocrite when they take issue with another administration doing the same thing in the future.
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Old May 16, 2013, 08:03 AM   #19
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I can't speak to the motivations of the press corp. The media love of the current administration has been widely panned for years I doubt this will change it much.

The "acting head" of the IRS has resigned slightly ahead of schedule:

Quote:
An official close to Miller told Fox News, shortly after Obama's brief announcement, that the IRS chief was "set to resign the position of acting commission as of early June." He was planning to leave the IRS entirely a "couple of months later, regardless of the current controversy," the source said.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013...#ixzz2TSZ2P2xJ

Which brings up another issue of these "acting heads of everything". Without conflating it may point to the usefulness of some over sight of the executive branch leadership. Regardless this is a fairly meaningless gesture and indicates no action being taken to reduce the unethical (possibly illegal) activity.

The blogosphere is lit up with this rather interesting note:

Quote:
California congressman David Nunes made the claim yesterday that the Justice Department wiretapped telephones in the House of Representative's Cloak Room
http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/...om_724606.html

Again, there is no indication yet that these were "taps" just phone records. However, it follows perfectly that since politicians and their people speak to the media all the time that there would be records showing this contact. It is unclear whether he meant that House records were taken or the AP records included conversations with the House.

Correlating the data on the taps to various legislation on the floor this has the potential to lead all kinds of places.
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Old May 16, 2013, 09:57 PM   #20
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I think the Congressman misspoke. A spokesman later clarified there was no wiretapping. There were subpoenas for records at the House Gallery (see the update at the end of the story) -- http://www.theatlanticwire.com/polit...oakroom/65287/.
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Old May 16, 2013, 10:24 PM   #21
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From both stories it would appear that DOJ's search for the source of the leaks extended to subpoenas for telephone records for phones used by Congressional representatives - whose phone conversations (and with whom they speak) might be more sensitive than many other conversations.

The concept that their phone records were examined by DOJ is unlikely to sit well with any number of Congressmen and women. Not only will they likely be no happier than the AP reporters at the prospect, but unlike the reporters the Congressmen likely can do something about it.
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Old May 16, 2013, 11:21 PM   #22
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Hokey Dokey.

I started a conversation with the Staff, earlier this morning, about this thread in particular. Mostly because I could see no way we could actually discuss the goings on, whether it be the IRS targeting or the subpoenaed phone logs, without delving into the politics of the actions.

So, we will open this thread, and this thread only, to such politics. I will quote Tom Servo as to the scope of the political discussion:

Quote:
It's one thing to describe the political process; it's another to discuss the merits of individual politicians. Some politics are bound to seep into any discussion of civil rights. If the balance turns the wrong way, we can always close it.
Heed the above well. Because as yet, despite any personal perceptions or suspicions, we don't know who is actually behind all of this.
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Old May 17, 2013, 05:39 AM   #23
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To me the fundamental issue isn't whether or not the .gov can find a suitable scapegoat to throw under a bus, it's the fact that it could happen at all. The AP "investigation," in particular, seems to me to offer a demonstration of yet another increment in the inexorable march toward micro-parsing words while ignoring the intent of the Constitution.

What does the 1st Amendment say?

Quote:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In this case, the Congress did not "make a law," so a Bill Clinton "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" protege would argue that the 1st Amendment has not been violated. But if you take broad view that the intent of the 1st Amendment is to tell the government not to interfere with the press ... then it becomes obvious that we are not just approaching a slippery slope, we are on the toboggan and careening over the precipice at breakneck speed.

The same argument holds regarding the IRS using audits to stifle political dissent. The Congress didn't pass a law saying "Thou shalt not be a conservative," so on the literal level there's no Constitutional violation. On a wider, moral/ethical level, if the intent of the 1st Amendment was to protect political speech from government retribution, then the current government (regardless of who is sitting in the Casa Blanca) is perilously close to the point of no return.
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Old May 17, 2013, 08:04 AM   #24
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Quote:
But if you take broad view that the intent of the 1st Amendment is to tell the government not to interfere with the press ...
There have been a ton of court cases on this.

Unless whatever they were publishing regarded:

Quote:
publication of sailing dates of transports or the number or location of troops
The government is not allowed to interfere as I understand case law.

Seems unlikely since the government won't even say what it was. If people were placed in peril over the publication then they should have approached the editors and worked through them. This looks like something else.



With the IRS case it appears to be a much broader and more clear case of suppression.

They fired the current head of the IRS Non-profit group. Another meaningless gesture. He had been there eight days. The old head is now in charge of the tax office for Affordable Health Care Act.


Quote:
The ObamaCare official now drawing scrutiny had been serving as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations from 2009 to 2012 -- the division included the group that targeted Tea Partiers -- and has since left to serve as director of the IRS' Affordable Care Act division. That unit is responsible for enforcing parts of the health care law, including the fines associated with the so-called individual mandate -- the requirement to buy health insurance.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013...#ixzz2TYS7EGG3



While I understand this issue is highly political it is also bipartisan. If one side allows the other to openly abuse the office of the executive the other shoe will drop eventually.
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Old May 17, 2013, 11:14 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alabama Shooter
Quote:
publication of sailing dates of transports or the number or location of troops
The government is not allowed to interfere as I understand case law....
Nope. In Near v. State of Minnesota Olson, 283 U.S. 697, 51 S.Ct. 625, 75 L.Ed. 1357 (1931) the Supreme Court expressly recognized that as one of a number of possible exceptions to the rule against prior restraint.
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