Monday, July 19, 2010

Erosion of 1st Amendment rights exemplified by South Park censorship and Senate Bill S. 3081

Founding father Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Without Freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of speech.” According to these simple truths, Americans are quickly losing their constitutional rights to think, speak and live free. Our daily lives are replete with examples from the media, as well as looming legislature threatening our freedom and independence.

South Park censorship

The irreverent cartoon, “South Park”, made us laugh by poking fun at every imaginable topic. This notoriously acerbic animation made fun of Jesus, the Queen, Mormons, Scientologists, Catholics, Jews, celebrities and politicians.

The 201st episode of merciless satire hit a snag when a New York-based group of extremist Muslim converts, “Revolution Muslim”, sent death threats to Comedy Central. They were prompted by an episode featuring the prophet Muhammad in a bear costume. Death threats were posted on the group’s website, targeting the originators of “South Park”, Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

To illustrate the fate that would befall the animators, the site ran by extremists featured a picture of Van Gogh, the Dutch film-maker, with his throat cut and a knife in his chest. He was murdered in 2004 after filming a documentary on the abuse of women in Muslim countries. The same website also listed the New York headquarters of Comedy Central and the production company of “South Park”, adding: "You can pay them a visit at these addresses."

The group that issued death threats has a record of making extremist statements. One of its members, Younus Abdullah Muhammad, told CNN last year that the attacks of 9/11 were “justified”.

How did the most powerful country in the world respond to death threats? By unleashing the might of law enforcement and recently empowered Interpol to hunt down the perpetrators? By refusing to acknowledge terroristic tactics? Wrong. The “solution” was a complete capitulation. The caustic cartoon was mutilated with bleeps and "censored" blocks throughout, removing all references in question. It wasn’t seamless or effortless – to the contrary, choppy inserts seemed to say, “We’re afraid of your threats and will do whatever you please. Do you like us now?”

Shockingly, this was the second time that “South Park” had been censored after taking on the prophet as a subject. In 2006, soon after violent protests erupted against the Danish cartoons, Stone and Parker produced a double episode that also featured the prophet. It was quietly sterilized by Comedy Central. If our media is so terrified, who is winning the war on terror?

By bowing down to brute force and ignoring our own set of values, we’re encouraging future threats of violence. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, our strength and courage as a nation is being thrown under the feet of uncivilized attackers. Is this the message the US as a nation wants to convey?

While we continue to kowtow to terrorists, the new legislation pending before the Senate will make it easy for the government to target outspoken Americans.

Senate Bill S. 3081

Unlike the immediate “South Park” reaction, you won’t see any furore in the mainstream media over the pending Senate bill, entitled "Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010". If the proposed piece of draconian legislation is passed by the Senate, it will place every American in danger of becoming “Enemy Of The State”, under the guise of protecting national security. This outrageously un-American bill was cooked up by Arizona Senator John McCain, Senator Joe Lieberman, Senator Jeff Sessions, Senators Roger Wicker, Saxby Chambliss, Scott Brown, David Vitter and George LeMieux.

Deliberately vague legal definitions serve as a carte blanche for arresting, interrogating and detaining any American citizen without trial, formal charges or even Miranda warnings. McCain, the former Republican Candidate for the US Presidency, who was also a former Prisoner Of War, should be ashamed of the language used in the Bill S. 3081. Section 5 of the bill makes it clear that U.S. citizens are included, stating in relevant part: "An individual, including a citizen of the United States, determined to be an unprivileged enemy… may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners in which the individual has engaged, or which the individual has purposely and materially supported, consistent with the law of war and any authorization for the use of military force provided by Congress pertaining to such hostilities."

Text of S. 3081: Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010
S.3081 would eliminate several Constitutional protections, allowing Government to arbitrarily pick up Americans on mere suspicion—with no probable cause. Any political opinions and statements that criticize U.S. Government could be used by Authorities to deem you a “hostile Enemy Belligerent”, thereby justifying your arrest and indefinite detention. S.3081 is so broadly written that any protesters or Tea partiers might be arrested and detained just for attending demonstrations. The government can justify that by charging that attending demonstrations could be considered to have materially supported anti-government hostilities.

Full language of the bill appears to do away with the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh Amendments of the constitution, in addition to Statute 42 (1983) violations that correspond with infringements on the rights of whistleblowers and US citizens. Investigative journalists with the Los Angeles based company, Fleur De Lis Film Studios, served media requests, requesting on-camera interviews with all of the senators responsible for the creation of the Bill S. 3081. All of these senators refused to answer questions pertaining to the unconstitutional bill they’re proposing to pass into law.

Under this bill’s predecessor, the unpatriotically deceptive Patriot Act, law enforcement generally needed probable cause to detain a person indefinitely. Passage of S.3081 will permit government to use “mere suspicion” to crush an individual’s Constitutional Protections against unlawful arrest, detention and interrogation without benefit of legal counsel and trial. According to S.3081 Big Brother is not required to provide detained individuals U.S. Miranda Warnings or even an attorney.

S.3081 is written so broadly that it could target any individual who writes on the Internet or verbally express an unflattering commentary about the government. Such an individual might be detained on the basis he or she is an “unprivileged enemy belligerent”, “supporting hostilities against U.S. Government.” Such allegations of “suspicious activities” need not be proven – the military can use hearsay or informants.

Notably, McCain’s S.3081 mandates merging Federal, State and Local Police and subsequently the U.S. Military to detain and hold Individuals in the U.S. without probable cause. Interestingly, a recently released Rand Report prepared for the Army, appears to suggest that the U.S. Government develop a Local, State and Federal “National Police Stabilization Force”, merging State law enforcement with the Feds. What could happen to State Rights and what Laws and Jurisdiction would be used to prosecute state Citizens arrested by a National Police Stabilization Force? A National Police Force could potentially be sent by the President into any State with the approval of its governor, against the wishes of its Citizens.

Historically it is foreseeable under S.3081 that “erroneous informant information” could be used to detain innocent Individuals. Other countries have used lying informants and corrupt law enforcement officials to imprison or annihilate political opposition.

AZ Immigration Bill

Another way to circumvent the constitution under the guise of protecting us from illegal immigration was the controversial Arizona Immigration Bill, signed by Governor Jan Brewer. Instead of the common sense approach of tougher border control, harsher penalties against businesses that employ illegals and questioning criminal detainees as to their legal status in this country, the new bill provides a venue for the police to question and arrest any citizen on the street for looking “suspicious”. The Obama administration called the Arizona bill "misguided" and instructed the Justice Department to determine whether it is legal or not. The President also said the federal government must enact immigration reform at the national level – or leave the door open to "irresponsibility by others."

The law will take effect in late July or early August, and AZ Governor Brewer ordered the state's law enforcement licensing agency to develop a training course on how to implement it without violating civil rights. The law doesn’t take into account the intentional targeting of individuals for personal motives, attacks against whistleblowers, protesters or civil rights activists. It simply opens the door for local police to stop and question anyone on the street without any probable cause.

Pastor Martin Niemöller wrote:

THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for meand by that time no one was left to speak up
.”

As Americans, we should speak up – without waiting until they come for each and every one of us. We should stop the erosion of our constitutional rights under the guise of such actions being done “for our own good”. We have to stand up for what is right, for what is just, for our American dream. Our freedom depends on it.

Read more stories by Julia Davis, Los Angeles Homeland Security Examiner

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