Two recent cases show the contempt with which our government, at the federal and state levels, views the First Amendment. First Amendment Semi-Win After Military Police Harass, Sexually Threaten Journalist A very basic tenet of our democracy is that a free press exists to report to The People on the actions of their government, and [...]
|By: Kevin Gosztola Wednesday February 25, 2015 11:00 am|
The National Security Agency marked Constitution Day in September by inviting one of the United States national security state’s most favorite bloggers, Benjamin Wittes, who is the editor-in-chief of Lawfare, to give a speech. The address was made even more remarkable by the fact that Wittes had intended to post his unclassified speech soon after but was [...]
|By: Peter Van Buren Thursday February 5, 2015 9:00 am|
As regular readers of this blog know, a central theme of mine is Post-Constitutional America, the third great era of our history. The Way It Was In the first era, the colonial years, a unitary executive, the King of England, ruled without checks and balances, allowing no freedom of speech, due process, or privacy when [...]
|By: Peter Van Buren Monday October 27, 2014 10:18 am|
New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Florida this week instituted mandatory confinement for certain people exposed to ebola.
Is it legal for a state (or the federal) government to detain and quarantine you against your will for health reasons? Yes. Has this sort of thing been done before? Yes. Will it be effective? No. Is it just a political ploy to garner votes from a panicked public? Oh my yes.
|By: Nat Parry Wednesday September 10, 2014 6:50 pm|
An important debate is underway in the United States Senate this week, but if you are, like most, a casual consumer of the news, you probably wouldn’t have heard about it. This is no indictment of your news-gathering habits, but rather of what passes for mass communication in modern America, in other words, the mainstream media’s systematic suppression of important information.
|By: Jane Hamsher Tuesday September 9, 2014 3:13 pm|
This is one of the crazier things I’ve seen in a while, and as someone who works with a lot of whistleblowers, that’s saying something.
The EFF is suing the NSA and other government agencies in the case Jewel v. NSA, attempting to stop illegal dragnet surveillance. According to EFF there was a hearing on June 6 in a crowded courtroom, but after it was over the government asked to have “classified information” that they had presented in open court removed from the court transcript. And they wanted to do so in secret so it would never be a matter of public record.
Moreover, EFF was under a gag order not to speak about it until today
|By: Tom Engelhardt Monday August 4, 2014 7:15 pm|
As every schoolchild knows, there are three check-and-balance branches of the U.S. government: the executive, Congress, and the judiciary. That’s bedrock Americanism and the most basic high school civics material. Only one problem: it’s just not so.
During the Cold War years and far more strikingly in the twenty-first century, the U.S. government has evolved. It sprouted a fourth branch: the national security state, whose main characteristic may be an unquenchable urge to expand its power and reach. Admittedly, it still lacks certain formal prerogatives of governmental power. Nonetheless, at a time when Congress and the presidency are in a check-and-balance ballet of inactivity that would have been unimaginable to Americans of earlier eras, the Fourth Branch is an ever more unchecked and unbalanced power center in Washington. Curtained off from accountability by a penumbra of secrecy, its leaders increasingly are making nitty-gritty policy decisions and largely doing what they want, a situation illuminated by a recent controversy over the possible release of a Senate report on CIA rendition and torture practices.
All of this is or should be obvious, but remains surprisingly unacknowledged in our American world. The rise of the Fourth Branch began at a moment of mobilization for a global conflict, World War II. It gained heft and staying power in the Cold War of the second half of the twentieth century, when that other superpower, the Soviet Union, provided the excuse for expansion of every sort.
|By: Tom Engelhardt Thursday July 24, 2014 6:26 pm|
You can’t get more serious about protecting the people from their government than the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, specifically in its most critical clause: “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In 2011, the White House ordered the drone-killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without trial. It claimed this was a legal act it is prepared to repeat as necessary. Given the Fifth Amendment, how exactly was this justified? Thanks to a much contested, recently released but significantly redacted — about one-third of the text is missing — Justice Department white paper providing the basis for that extrajudicial killing, we finally know: the president in Post-Constitutional America is now officially judge, jury, and executioner.
|By: Peter Van Buren Friday July 11, 2014 3:50 pm|
The CIA attacks on the Senate, designed to impede, alter or influence the outcome of a report on torture, coupled with a lack of concern from the White House and the Department of Justice, as well as apparently by the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee itself, are another example of our new world, a Post-Constitutional America where the old rules of an aging republic no longer apply.
|By: Dennis Trainor Jr Monday June 9, 2014 8:00 pm|
More than half of respondents in this survey, released by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, said they think elected officials don’t share their priorities, and almost two-thirds said elected officials seem motivated by selfish reasons. Less than a quarter of the millennials polled said they will definitely be voting in November