Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sliding Toward Censorship

From a recent article in the New York Times entitled After Afghan War Leaks, Revisions in a Shield Bill, by Charlie Savage, August 3, 2010:

WASHINGTON — Democratic senators who have been working on legislation providing greater protections to reporters who refuse to identify confidential sources are backpedaling from WikiLeaks, the Web site that recently disclosed more than 75,000 classified documents related to the Afghanistan war.

Senators Charles E. Schumer and Dianne Feinstein, Democrats of New York and California, are drafting an amendment to make clear that the bill’s protections extend only to traditional news-gathering activities and not to Web sites that serve as a conduit for the mass dissemination of secret documents. The so-called “media shield” bill is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

"WikiLeaks should not be spared in any way from the fullest prosecution possible under the law," Mr. Schumer said in a statement. "Our bill already includes safeguards when a leak impacts national security, and it would never grant protection to a Web site like this one, but we will take this extra step to remove even a scintilla of doubt."

The key paragraph comes a little later on:

Still, in case WikiLeaks or a similar organization sought to invoke a shield law, proponents of the legislation are trying to create legislative history that would show judges that Congress did not intend for the law to cover such organizations. The idea, aides said, would be to add language bolstering a section defining who would be covered by the law as a journalist — an area that can be tricky in an era of blogging and proliferation of online-only news media outlets.

Once they get the authority to define who is a journalist and who isn't, they will have the authority to define the term "press" - and the First Amendment becomes circumvented.

Because, once they can define what the "press" is, they can gag and control anyone not defined as part of the "press" and thereby eliminate those freedoms, while maintaining the facade of complying with the Constitution's Bill of Rights.

It's kind of like torture: The government can torture people all it wants to, while saying it doesn't torture; the trick is to define the specific torture techniques they want to use as "enhanced interrogation" instead of as torture, and they can have it both ways.

Congress has no right to define what a journalist is, or what the press is, or the meaning of a plethora of other terms; the obvious intent of the First Amendment is to give Freedom of Speech and of the Press a wide berth as a bulwark against dictatorship, and every time that gang in Washington does something like this, it is another step down the slippery slope into the abyss of censorship, which will inevitably lead us to tyranny.

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