The First Amendment protects Americans’ freedom of speech and assembly. Unfortunately, at various times in US history, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have disregarded these protections, targeting people or groups based on political viewpoint, religious affiliation, or participation in lawful protests. The advent of the internet as the new “town square,” has opened a new front in the battle to protect free speech and assembly, and new technologies make it easier for the government to track our communications and movements both on and offline, inhibiting our willingness to dissent.
Undercover agents have infiltrated law-abiding activist groups, police have beaten and tear-gassed protesters at peaceful protests, and people are considered suspect merely because of their real or perceived Islamic faith. On the internet, police and intelligence agencies monitor social media and speech that should be protected by the First Amendment is considered evidence of “material support for terrorism.”
Dissent is being criminalized by DHS Terror Threat Assessments that name environmentalists, practicing Muslims or people with Ron Paul bumper stickers as potential terrorists, by legislation that conflates activism with terrorism (as in the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act), and by over-policing at protests and restrictive “free speech zones.”
While there are many reasons individuals may be concerned over who President-Elect Donald Trump would pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, civil liberties may not be the first thing to come to mind.
The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act is an attempt to use real fears about a political climate in which white supremacy is increasingly becoming normalized and made mainstream to enact a longstanding political project aimed at censoring and restricting speech about Israeli policies. As such, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act must be rejected.
We Don’t Like ‘Fake News’ Either, But the Creation of a Neo-McCarthyite Committee to Counter Russian Propaganda Is Most Definitely NOT the Answer
The House passed a passed a provision that raises the specter of Russian “media manipulation” and “disinformation,” and creates a committee to counter such efforts. That raises concerns.
Sessions has a long and documented history of opposing the rights of vulnerable populations, disregarding the First Amendment, and championing torture. As Attorney General, Sessions would be head of the department in charge of overseeing the protections of civil rights and the most powerful law enforcement in the nation. Given his historic hostility to civil liberties this is unacceptable. Sessions was rightfully rejected as a judicial nomination and should be similarly rejected for Attorney General.