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A New Assault on Freedom of the Press ^ | February 13, 2014 | Judge Andrew Napolitano

Posted on 02/13/2014 6:06:31 AM PST by Kaslin

Last week, a little noticed clash took place on Capitol Hill involving the fundamental values underlying the First Amendment. The issue was the lawfulness of publishing the secrets that were given to reporters by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. The disputants were Cong. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and FBI Director James Comey.

Rogers is the chief congressional apologist for the massive NSA spying apparatus. He is the current chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and in that capacity, he is one of the dozen members of Congress from both houses who were privy to much of the NSA spying before the Snowden revelations. In our perverse post-9/11 world, federal law actually permits this Gang of 12 to substitute for all 535 members of Congress with respect to knowledge of intelligence secrets.

Since 9/11, the Bush and Obama administrations have succeeded in claiming they have congressional consent for the massive NSA spying by merely getting a consensus from the Gang of 12. There is, of course, no provision in the Constitution for the substitution of all 535 members of Congress with a select group of 12 of them, but Congress and Presidents Bush and Obama have gone along with this. The kicker is that all members of the Gang of 12 have been sworn to secrecy and threatened with prosecution if they reveal to anyone, including other members of Congress, what the NSA and other intelligence agencies reveal to them. What kind of representative democracy is that?

Rogers is one of the chief architects and cheerleaders of this post-9/11 unconstitutional version of representative democracy. This is the same system that sends the NSA to judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for search warrants that purport to authorize the NSA to capture the content of every text message, email, telephone call, bank statement, credit card bill and utility bill of everyone in America. This apparatus, too, involves another Gang of 12: the 12 federal judges on the FISA court. They suffer from the same secrecy kicker as Rogers' gang does: They, too, are sworn to secrecy and have been implicitly threatened with prosecution if they violate their oaths.

These judges issue search warrants based on the NSA's unchallenged wishes, not based on the constitutional requirement of particularly identifying for the court the target of the search and then presenting evidence to the court that constitutes probable cause of criminal behavior on the part of the target. This, too, is unconstitutional, as it is the product of a congressional alteration of the Constitution. As most schoolchildren know, Congress cannot alter or amend the Constitution; only the states can. Yet, by instructing FISA judges to issue search warrants that do not meet the constitutional identity of target and probable cause standards, Congress has substantially altered the Constitution, and the judicial Gang of 12 has gone along with this.

As one of the architects of all this domestic spying, and as one of the believers that the public should be kept in the dark about it, Rogers has not been happy with the Snowden revelations. Snowden subscribed to the same oath of secrecy as the two Gangs of 12, but he also swore -- as have both Gangs of 12 -- to uphold the Constitution.

To Snowden, the people have a fundamental right to know that their government has cooked up the most massive secret violation of civil liberties in the nation's history, and his oath to uphold the Constitution compelled his revelations. To Rogers, Snowden must be a traitor or a spy.

Even the Obama administration has not bought that argument, as it only charged Snowden with the delivery of classified materials to unauthorized persons. It did not charge him with treason (waging war on the United States or giving aid and comfort to enemies of the United States) or spying (giving classified secrets to enemies of the United States).

Frustrated that Snowden is apparently living freely in Moscow, Rogers summoned the FBI director before his House committee to float a truly novel and pernicious theory of First Amendment law. At that hearing last week, he attempted to persuade Comey to accept his idea that publishing classified secrets is a crime if the publisher was paid for his work. So, if the owners of and reporters at The Guardian of London or The New York Times or The Washington Post, who publicly revealed the secrets Snowden gave them, were paid for their work, the Rogers argument goes, they, too, could be prosecuted for espionage.

Rogers is not a lawyer, but he is an ex-FBI agent. He should know the law, but it was necessary for Comey to tutor him. The law is clear and was stated by the Supreme Court in the Pentagon Papers case, and Comey publicly reminded Rogers of this: If classified materials are of interest to the public, their publication is protected.

Stated differently, it matters not how the journalist acquires the classified materials or whether the journalist and his bosses are paid for his work. If the classified materials are newsworthy, they can be published, and no one can be sued or prosecuted for doing so.

In the clash between government secrecy and public transparency, the Framers placed a value judgment in the First Amendment. Since the press is the eyes and ears of the public, and since the public needs to know what the government is doing so it can make informed decisions when electing people to the government, publishers and reporters are immune from criminal prosecution and civil liability for lifting the veil on the governments' secrets. An informed public is more likely to make better decisions than an ignorant one.

I am happy that Comey did not fall for Rogers' ignorant argument, and I am happy, too, that the argument will fall on deaf ears. In a free society, knowledge is superior to ignorance. Politicians who would criminalize publishing the truth should be voted out of office.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: 1rstamendment; freedomofspeech; mikerogers; nsa; nsascandals; pressfreedom; snowden

1 posted on 02/13/2014 6:06:31 AM PST by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

meh - these guys (news orgs) have been so silent on 2A issues, I can frankly give a crap if they now get targeted by any admin - they’re reaping what they’ve sown

2 posted on 02/13/2014 6:13:54 AM PST by Revelation 911
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To: Kaslin
hmmm..Rep. Rogers (Wdc-GOP/e? ) over reaching...*beating the grass for snakes/malcontents*

3 posted on 02/13/2014 6:15:21 AM PST by skinkinthegrass (The end move in politics is always to pick up a gun..0'Caligula / 0'Reid / 0'Pelosi)
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To: Revelation 911


4 posted on 02/13/2014 6:16:37 AM PST by mad_as_he$$
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To: Kaslin

Very good article. Thanks for posting. HOORAY Judge!

5 posted on 02/13/2014 6:59:23 AM PST by PGalt
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To: Kaslin

This selective reasoning is very dangerous.

It means that NO SECRETS may be protected.

6 posted on 02/13/2014 7:21:08 AM PST by G Larry
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To: G Larry
It means that NO SECRETS may be protected.

It means when the NYT "lifts the veil" on specific military movements in a manner that compromises national security we have no reason to complain since they are "acting in the public interest."

7 posted on 02/13/2014 8:01:10 AM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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To: Kaslin
Napolitano's last paragraphs sum it up well. He has the words of America's Founders and Framers of the Constitution's protections to back him up.

"It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own. It behooves him, too, in his own case, to give no example of concession, betraying the common right of independent opinion . . . ." --Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, 1803

"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787

"The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing."
- JOHN ADAMS, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law

"Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers." - A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765

"But none of the means of information are more sacred, or have been cherished with more tenderness and care by the settlers of America, than the press. Care has been taken that the art of printing should be encouraged, and that it should be easy and cheap and safe for any person to communicate his thoughts to the public. And you, Messieurs printers, whatever the tyrants of the earth may say of your paper, have done important service to your country by your readiness and freedom in publishing the speculations of the curious. The stale, impudent insinuations of slander and sedition with which the gormandizers of power have endeavored to discredit your paper are so much the more to your honor; for the jaws of power are always opened to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing." - A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765


"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." - Thomas Jefferson, as excerpted from letter to Carrington, quoted above

8 posted on 02/13/2014 9:00:15 AM PST by loveliberty2
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To: Kaslin

We have almost no “free press” anyway. The White House already tells most news outlets what to write....and I hear they get grants for doing it.

9 posted on 02/13/2014 9:13:22 AM PST by Rapscallion (Had enough? Let me know.)
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To: Kaslin

You either support the Constitution or not. You can’t cherry pick the parts you support and the parts you don’t.

10 posted on 02/13/2014 9:14:08 AM PST by BuffaloJack (Freedom isn't free; nor is it easy. END ALL TOTALITARIAN ACTIVITY NOW.)
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To: BuffaloJack

excellent point

11 posted on 02/13/2014 9:45:09 AM PST by Kaslin (He neeExcelded the ignorant to reelect him, and he got them. Now we all have to pay the consequenses)
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